It's officially election season with early voting underway for the 2018 midterms. But say, for whatever reason, you missed voting in the primary elections — and it's got you worried. So you missed the primary; can you vote in the midterms?
In short: yes! Voting in the midterms — either through early voting or on Election Day — is not tied to voting in the primary, which is typically done amongst the individual parties.
Some states have closed primaries, which means you can only vote if you're registered as a member of that party. Other states have open primaries, which mean that you can participate in the election without declaring an affiliation. Keep this in mind for the next election. Primaries are an important way to make yourself heard as they're typically where decisions that can sway an individual political party are made.
Just look at the platform for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat long-time representative Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary. In New York's system, voters have to be registered with a party months in advance (instead of day of), there are separate voting days for state (like governor) and federal positions (like senators), and there's no early voting. Ocasio-Cortez's stunning victory was seen a rebuke of the Democratic leadership and its values.
However, if you didn't vote in the primary, you might not have yet had an opportunity to check if your voter registration is up to date. Vote.org — a nonprofit organization dedicated to using technology to simplify the voting process — has an easy-to-use tool to check if your voting registration is active.
If your registration is active and up to date, then you have to find your polling place. The easiest way is to search for "how to find your polling place" on Google. Seriously. You can also search for "find my polling place [your state]" to find your individual state's Secretary of State database. (That's the state position that oversees elections in each state, and that's the official you hear from whenever there's questions about voting problems.)
Now that you're clear that you can vote on Election Day, there are some other things to cover, like what is your voting plan? Uber and Lyft are offering discounted and free rides to polls on Election Day. "Using our technology and resources, we can help make it easier for every Uber rider in the US to get to their polling place at the push of a button,” the company announced in a blog post.
Another important question: How will you choose who to vote for on Election Day? Since October 2006, League of Women Voters Education Fund has put together VOTE411.org, nonpartisan voting guides for federal and state positions up for election. The project also has information for overseas and military members who want help to vote. Physical guides are usually available at local libraries, which typically double as polling places during election season.
If the midterms are your first voting experience — or maybe your first experience outside a presidential election — it can be a bit intimidating. But it's important to remember that everyone has had a first election at some point. Even Taylor Swift is helping to normalize the stigma around voting by encouraging people to talk about their first-time voting experiences.
It's critical to take part in the process and make your vote heard. Just because you missed a primary, doesn't mean you should miss another election day.