Are you intimidated by voting? Are you mystified by the process? The more you know, the more likely you are to get involved, and the more influence you have on your world. Get ready for the next election by learning these ten things about voting in the U.S.
Step 1: You Can Vote If….
You can vote if you’re at least 18 years old, you’re a U.S. citizen, you’re not a felon, and you haven’t been declared mentally incompetent by a court of law.
Step 2: You Can Register Almost Anywhere
You can find voter registration applications at the DMV, the post office, the library, the fire station, your local election office, or by downloading a registration application from the Internet. You also might find registration applications at coffee shops, on college campuses, in mall kiosks, and other unexpected places.
Step 3: Primary v. General Elections
In the primary election, you narrow down the field of candidates. If you’re registered Republican, you pick the best Republican. Same thing if you’re a Democrat. In the general election, you can vote for whomever you want – regardless of your party affiliation, or theirs.
Step 4: You Don’t Have To Choose A Party
When you register to vote, you can register with a political party – Republican, Democrat, Green or any other – or you can “decline to state,” which means you are registered as an Independent.
Step 5: The Sample Ballot Is The Voting Bible
The sample ballot you receive in the mail before an election is full of information. It tells you when and where to vote and what you can vote for, and often, even the voting equipment you’ll be using. Fill it out at home, and bring it with you as a reference on Election Day.
Step 6: You Can Ask For Help
If you don’t understand something at the polling place, you can ask any of the poll workers to help you. They are trained to answer questions and to walk you through the process if you need guidance.
Step 7: If You Screw Up, You Get Another Chance
If you make a mess of your ballot, or if you think you’ve mis-marked it, you can ask for a new one and start again. It’s YOUR ballot.
Step 8: You Don’t Have To Go To The Polls To Vote
You don’t have to leave your house to vote. You can request an absentee ballot, which allows you to vote by mail. In most cases, you have to request an absentee ballot at least seven days before an election, but call the Secretary of Stat’s office in your state for requirements in your community. Just remember to get it in before the deadline!
Step 9: Your Vote Is Secret
Your vote is completely confidential. No matter what anyone tells you to do, when you go into the polls or fill out your absentee ballot, you make your own choice.
Step 10: Voting Is A Privilege
Voting gives you the chance to change your world and to make your voice heard. A presidential election was won by one electoral vote. Women won the right to vote by one vote. Texas was given statehood by one vote. Your vote counts.