When it comes time to fulfill your civic duty, there is always a list of names with a small “R” or “D” beside them. While many are “party voters” and their vote is based on that little letter, there is a more responsible and informed way to make your vote count. These tips will help you to make the best decision and know who you are voting for.
1. Make Sure You’re Registered
With the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of confusion and uncertainty about how to cast your vote. Because of the crisis, early voting, absentee voting, and normal voting have been altered to allow for more individuals to participate and encourage social distancing. To register to vote, you can complete the form online, at the DMV, post office, or armed forces recruitment offices. You can follow up with USA.gov to get official information on how to register and where to go for your area.
- Early voting means that you are allowed to vote early. Usually, this is reserved for individuals who have to work or cannot attend on their normal voting day, such as first responders. The crisis has allowed for the polls to open early so there are not as many people voting on election day.
- Absentee voting (or mail-in ballots) are usually reserved for individuals who cannot vote in person, such as the military or college students who attend school in another state. To accommodate having fewer people at the polls, many states have allowed others to choose to vote by mail. A ballot is sent to your home, you write in your selections, sign it yourself, have a witness sign (this can be a spouse, neighbor, or any adult), and return the ballot using the prepaid envelope.
- Normal voting involves presenting yourself in-person to a designated polling location. You’ll need to have your voter ID card and a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. There are often volunteers present to help direct you and instruct you on how to correctly fill it out if it is your first time.
While it is well known about November 3rd every four years, other elections are just as important. You should know when these are for your area and can get information from your polling place, the local news, or government sources.
2. Be Informed on the Candidates
With so many candidates, it can be hard to keep up with your local elected officials. There are sheriffs, mayors, delegates, senators, governors, the president, city council, and chairmen just to name a few. With that said, there are many resources that your candidate provides to help guide you on where they stand. Besides checking their official page, you can also go to VOTE411.org to get information about the officials running in your area. You should always know who you are voting for, and if are unsure where the candidate stands, look it up. You should know who you are voting for, what they stand for, and how they are going to represent you and your values.
3. Watch the Debates
Officials who are running in elections often participate in local debates, state level, and even the presidential debate. This can show you how the candidates conduct themselves, hear from them where they stand, and compare them side by side. When watching, there are some key things that you should do to help you make the best choice.
- A recent study recommends watching the debate with your eyes closed. Psychology shows that people will choose female candidates based on their attractiveness without realizing it. The study also found that participants leaned towards male candidates over female as they appeared to be dominant and competent. Listening to the debate without watches can let you hear what they have to say without the bias that your brain naturally provides based on looks.
Debates and official sources such as unbiased news sources are the second-best places to get information on candidates (first would be their own websites.) This leads us into the next point.
4. DO NOT Get Information on Candidates through Social Media
Social media is where many Americans get all their news stories. While it is a great tool to stay connected, it is not a place to get factual information. Because of propaganda, biased, and even fake stories, it is not recommended to get news or election information from social media sites. As stated before, using the resources the candidates provide, debates, or unbiased sources to gather information are the best sources. This will ensure you get accurate and unbiased information so you can learn and make the choice for yourself.
5. Don’t Go with Your Gut, Know When to Hold Out
You shouldn’t vote based on how you feel in your gut. You’ll want to ensure that you are voting for, ensuring you are properly represented, and believe in what the candidate stands for. Guessing or not making an informed decision could lead to you now have the right person in the office.
When in doubt, and you don’t know who to vote for: DON’T. Rather than picking the lesser of two evils, there is nothing wrong with not voting. To sit around out because you don’t have a candidate that you trust, believe in or want to represent you is a responsible choice rather than voting for a bad candidate or someone you don’t believe in. While many will use the little “R” or “D” at the end of their name, this is not the best way to make sure that the right person wins the seat.
With the 2020 election coming up, these tips can help to make sure that you vote responsibly, informed, and make the best choice for who you believe should represent you in office.