vote Image via Shutterstock

The stakes have never been higher.

It seems every day brings another crisis. Climate change is hurtling toward irreversible tipping points, and millions of Americans live without access to health care. Black and Brown communities remain marginalized and fear for their lives from over-policing, while women fight for the autonomy to make decisions about their own bodies.

Sometimes it feels like too much. But we all have a say in whether government works for us—and we should use it.

Approximately 21% of voting-age Americans are not registered to vote, according to a 2017 Pew Research survey. More than three in 10 American citizens of voting age did not vote in 2016. The same holds for 2012. 

Numbers get even worse at local levels, where your vote has more power than it does in national elections. In 144 cities in 2011, less than 21 percent of voting-age citizens cast a ballot in local contests.

Of course, it’s important to point out that there are major obstacles to voting and registering to vote in some states. For instance, convicted felons in 11 states, including Arizona, Wyoming, Iowa, and Kentucky, lose their voting rights indefinitely or require a pardon from the governor. 

Such disenfranchisement is the direct result of who we elect to represent us in government. In short, your voice matters. 

So how do you register to vote, or confirm you’re eligible? 

• First, check your registration status. Even if you’ve registered in the past, states and local offices have purged 30 million people from voter rolls in the past five years. Check your registration status here.

• You’ve checked, and you’re not registered. Next, you should go to vote.gov, hit the drop-down menu to pick the state you live in, and head to your state’s election website.

• What next? Grab your driver’s license, look at your mail to confirm your zip code, and have your social security number ready. If you don’t have a driver’s license, a non-driver state ID should work. 

• If you don’t want to register online, you can download the national voter registration form here. The form can be filled out onscreen by clicking in the boxes, or you can print it out and fill it out by hand.

Congrats! You’re ready to exercise your democratic rights.