17 Tips For Voting For The First Time (Or If You're Just A Little Out Of Practice)
The election heat is on, and you might be totally new to the whole affair. There are a whole lot of things to figure out if it's your first time voting, including whether you're eligible, as well as questions about timing, logistics, candidates, and more. No worries, though, because here are some tips for first-time voters as well as people who may be a little out of practice.
Young people's interest in voting seems to have increased recently. According to a data-based study conducted by the popular dating website, OkCupid, politics is a deeply personal subject for millennials. And their political values seem to shape their preferences in their potential partners.
According to OkCupid, website-based searches in "political terms" had gone up by 64 percent in 2017. In that data set, 85 percent of millennial men and women categorized voting as either extremely or very important to them. On top of that, 46 percent of the female millennial users expressed a lack of romantic interest in people apathetic to voting.
So you get the picture. People (especially young people) seem more serious about voting than ever before. Here's all the information you need to be prepared for exercising your civic duty.
1. Can I Even Vote?
Good first question. Each state has its own guidelines about eligibility for voting. You can check out your state's voter registration age, though you should already be registered by now if you want to vote. Remember that you need to be 18 years old on the day you vote.
2. Where Can I Learn More About Candidates?
Some people may want to vote — but don't know who to vote for. You can check out voter guides related to your state, as well from organizations that are offering comprehensive information on which candidate is running for which office in your state. Plus, there's Ballot Ready for learning about the issues candidates stand against or in favor of.
3. Can I Vote Early?
The option to vote early ends a few days before the Election Day, depending on your state. So head on over here to find out if you can vote early.
4. How About An Absentee Ballot?
If you're not in the United States, you have the option of the absentee ballot. Mostly you'll have to provide your voting residence information in an application. Hurry, though. You don't want to go past your state's deadline.
5. OK, Where Do I Go To Vote?
Logistics! If you want to go in person and vote, you need to know a few things beforehand. You should figure out what time you'd like to go and if you'll need any transportation. But before you decide to do anything of this, confirm where your polling station is by contacting your election office.
6. Can I Leave Work Early To Vote?
If you work or need to attend classes, you should tell your management or administration about your plans so you can take time off. Find out your state's laws about leaving work early to vote.
7. What Should I Expect At The Polling Station?
If you're curious to know what it is like to be at a polling station, just search for "voting machines" along with your state's name on Google. This should give you ample material on the equipment at the station and how you're expected to use it. If you don't have the time, you can simply ask a poll worker who should help you navigate the station.
8. What If They Say I'm Not Registered — But I Am?
Say you go to the voting station and they tell you that you're not registered in their database but you know you are. Don't fret. This is where you ask for a provisional ballot and cast your vote. Later on, your state will contact you to inform you whether your ballot was authenticated or not.
9. What Do I Do If I Feel Like My Voting Rights Were Violated?
In the event that you suspect your voting rights were violated (for example, if you think your voter registration was removed or you were turned away from a polling station for a suspicious reason) contact the number for ACLU's Election Protection: (866) 687-8683. The website provides detailed information for contacting officials in your own state.
10. Can I Take A Selfie In The Booth?
You may really want to photo-document your first voting experience, but this is where it's better to be safe than sorry. Learn about what your specific state says about taking selfies in the booth. It's likely that it's not allowed where you are.
11. What Exactly Should I Bring To The Voting Station?
Depending on the state you're in, you may have to bring some kind of photo ID to authenticate your identity. Check out what your state says about what counts as identification.
If you're thinking of bringing your phone, it's most possible that your state does not allow phones in the booth. Depending on where you are, a poll worker may just ask you not to bring your phone in with you. And once you're there, your polling station will most likely inform you on whether you need a pencil or pen at all.
12. Who's On My Ballot?
Some media outlets have detailed guides on what's happening in the American midterm elections. Getting yourself acquainted with the candidates that are running, the issues they support, the policies they want, isn't a bad idea at all.
13. How Do I Avoid Misinformation?
As it is with elections, misinformation on social media can be all over the place. The New York Times gave general advice that's worth keeping in mind: it's always good to check the source before believing the post you see. For instance, while some states allow online voting, you can never vote through a tweet or text message — as some people may have believed in 2016.
Plus, if you get a call or text message where someone is offering to register you, do not give your personal information as it could lead to identity theft. It's worth being cautious about as there have been incidents of such voter scams in New York in October.
Or in the case of possible student voter suppression, fake fliers in a Lewinson, Maine, college told students that they needed to pay for their driver's license to register to vote. Stay clear of these scams.
14. Should I Go Alone To Vote?
Pro-tip: Given that there can be long lines of people waiting to cast their ballot, it might get a little tiring to stand in line by yourself. If your friends and family members are also registered to vote, you should coordinate to go together to the voting station. But remember: there's no harm in going alone.
P.S. Don't hesitate to bring a snack (along with a friend) to make the wait a little less tiresome.
15. What If I'm Confronted By Campaigners Outside The Polling Station?
Nearly every state in America prohibits people from political campaigning within 100 feet of the voting station. If you are aggressively accosted by someone attempting to persuade or dissuade your voting choice, alert a polling official.
16. What Do I Do If I Need Disability Assistance?
The Americans With Disabilities Act, Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, and several other federal provisions guarantee that Americans with intellectual or physical disabilities are given assistance so they may vote without hassle.
If you need help and want to know whether your polling station provides basic assistance, check the ADA list for polling stations.
17. Do I Need To Vote For Everything On The Ballot?
You don't have to select a candidate for every office mentioned on the ballot just because there's a field for it. This is why it's worth reading up on the candidates before you support or oppose them.
These are just some of the questions first-timers or those who are out of practice may have. But with the help of this guide, you should be a little less nervous and a lot more excited about heading over to the polling stations this Election Day.