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    A First-Time Voter’s Guide to Election Season

    This month, the movie Suffragette hits the big screen. The film is set in early 20th-century Britain and chronicles the lives of several women standing up for their right to vote and the sacrifices they had to make to do so.

    While the movie may take place in England, it is still a sobering reminder that it wasn’t that long ago that women were denied the right to vote in America, too. Suffrage is so important that men and women throughout history have fought hard to be able to do it. But these days, voter turnout is steadily declining, especially among younger voters. In fact, only 38.5 percent of Americans voted in 2014. That means less than half of the country’s population made their voices heard.

    If this is your first time voting, it might seem like a cumbersome process, filled with complicated issues that don’t seem to have an answer. But if you know what to expect, it doesn’t have to be scary. Here are some tips on how to prepare yourself for election season:

     

    1. Do some research. Even though the presidential election is still one year away, it’s important to keep up with who is in the running. Do some research on the candidates. Check out the website iSideWith. It has a quiz and helpful information about important issues that can help you understand the candidates and their policies better.
    2. Form your own opinion. Remember that information about candidates can be biased depending on where you look. Always try to get information from a variety of sources so you can form your own opinion. You can talk with your parents, pastor and other trusted adults—but make sure that you make your own decision in the end.
    3. Register to vote. Contrary to what you might think, most states don’t allow you to just show up on Election Day to cast your ballot without being registered first. Check out this website to make sure you are registered before the big day. Also make sure you check what the identification requirements of your state are so you can have them handy when the time comes.
    4. Know where to vote. Check out the location and operating hours of your nearest polling station. If you are a college student away from home, you might also want to think about requesting an absentee ballot that you can send through the mail.
    5. Bring a friend. Doing your civic duty is more fun when you have a friend to do it with. You might just be the catalyst that inspires your whole tribe to make their votes count.
    6. Pray. The Bible is very clear that we are called to intercede for people in positions of power. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 says: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Start praying even now that you will have the wisdom to make the right decision.

     

    Is this your first time voting? Are you excited, nervous or something in between?

    2 COMMENTS

    1. As a somewhat new voter (2 years), great tips! 🙂 A couple other things I’d add–

      Don’t let voting scare or overwhelm you. It seems like a lot when you first look at it, but just take a deep breath. It’s not as scary as it looks. Also, the people who help you register are really helpful, at least in my experience. I’m not real comfortable filling out forms, but they were great and showed me what to do.

      Don’t get overwhelmed with research. Presidential primaries are big with lots of candidates. Keep a general eye on what’s going on now, but don’t worry if you’re torn between two (or more) great candidates. A lot of the candidates currently running will drop out before the primaries are held in your state. Keep an eye on your favorites but don’t worry about having to choose between them until you have to, if you have to.

      And, of course, all elections are important and in state elections often have fewer candidates and less complications (aka less grandstanding to the media) so they can actually be easier.

    2. Be sure to register (read: Have your voter card, this can take 2-3 weeks) a certain number of days before the election (in my state it’s 30 days). Know when the primaries are held in your state, and remember that if you register as independent you can’t vote for Democrat or Republican candidates in the primaries (and honestly, independent candidates rarely win elections, if ever).

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