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Three Steps to a Smart Vote for the Upcoming Election

by Emily Hellman, Loqmane Jamil // Published October 14, 2010


 At FairVote, we acknowledge elections can sometimes be confusing.  As voters, we occasionally need to check the rules, too.  However, with a few good resources voting does not need to be intimidating. Below are three steps to make your vote count.

Step 1: Make sure you are registered to vote.

Before you vote for the first time in any state, you need to register to vote, and with midterm elections quickly approaching, many registration deadlines are too.  Deadlines vary from state to state. In some states, the time to register to vote has already passed, but in many states it still is not too late.   Some states will even allow you to register when you go to vote at your polling station on Election Day.  As a result, the most important step to registering is familiarizing yourself with your state laws.

An easy way to register to vote is visiting your municipal office.   You can also mail in your registration form. Some states even let you register online so you do not need to mail anything in.  Also, if you think you already are registered, it is always a good idea to double check.
 
Below are a several websites that will help you find your state laws and walk you through the steps of filling out the registration forms:  

http://www.register-vote.com/
http://www.rockthevote.org/
http://www.credomobile.com/registertovote/

And here are some websites to visit if you have any questions about your state’s specific election policies:

http://www.eac.gov/
http://electionland.com/

Step 2: Educate yourself about the candidates and issues. 

We know a lot of different external pressures exist before elections—your family, friends, teachers, and the media.  However, you are the one who is soley responsible for how you vote.

That’s the beauty of democracy; your vote is your voice.  Listen to every point of view, because partisan bickering is overrated.  Be open-minded, and educate yourself about the candidates and issues.  A good vote requires a good state of mind.  

Finding information about candidates and institutions can sometimes seem like work, but here are some helpful nonpartisan websites that would be a good way to start your search:

 http://www.votesmart.org/
http://www.congress.org/
http://smartvoter.org/
http://www.c-span.org/

Also, you might be one of the fortunate ones to live in a state with an official state-financed voter guide. Check the websites of your state board of elections and/or Secretary of State to see what might be available.
 
Step 3: Go Vote!

You have done all the work.  Now, it is time for your voice to be heard.  The easiest way to vote is by going to your local polling station, which you can find by calling your municipal or state election offices or by consulting their websites.  Newspapers often also publish the information, too.   If you don’t think you can make it to the polls on Election Day there are still several options.   Many states offer early voting, so you can stop by their local offices and vote a few weeks in advance.  States also offer absentee ballots.   However, you need to apply in advance to get these, so if you want to use one, you need to plan ahead.  Once again, each state has different laws about these procedures, so familiarize yourself with your state’s rules so you have time to prepare.

Here are some websites that can help you find your polling place or get an absentee ballot:

http://www.vote411.org/
http://www.longdistancevoter.org/
http://www.fvap.gov/

The next election is on November 2nd.  It is the midterm election, so be prepared and don’t miss it!!