If you’re not one of my American readers, sorry, I’m sure you’ve been swamped by election news already. If you are one of my American readers, I’m speaking to you. Directly.
I’ve kind of shied away from talking about politics here on LBTL. I want this blog to be about you. I want to share ideas that worked for me, learn from you, maybe give you some encouragement when you need it.
If you guys wanna talk shop, hit me with an email, or come talk to me on Twitter. I’m happy to discuss. But I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, and I’ve decided that the best response to the current political situation is to get my readers – demographically speaking, you’re mostly millennial American women – to the polls.
So today, I’ve got a meticulously researched resource guide for voters around the country, presented with as little bias as possible. No matter what you believe, you’re paying taxes, so you might as well get your money’s worth.
Vote. Here’s How.
First off, I made a voting checklist for y’all. Normally, my printables are in the Resource Library, but this one is so important to me that I’m not even making it exclusive for my subscribers. Download and print off a copy here.
For the Undecided Voter
If you’re undecided, there are a lot of people willing to pay a lot of money in ads to change your mind. You can check the candidate’s websites for their official platforms – Clinton, Johnson, Stein, Trump, – but please be aware that these are the candidates’ sites, full of spin and specifically designed to get you to vote for them or against their opponents.
I’d also caution you to be careful to how much scandal talk you listen to. Be aware of what the candidates are up to, and what news breaks about them, but also know the difference between legitimate rumors and senseless muckraking. Rely on legitimate news sources and know their reporting biases, so you’re sure to get the whole story.
So How Do We Vote?
First, you need to be registered. If you’re a college student, make sure you’re registered in your school’s district. If you’re not, either re-register in your school’s district, or look into absentee voting. I’ll go over that in a bit more detail below.
If You’re Not Registered
Most (but not all) states will still let you register in-person or by mail right now. Check this list for your state’s exact rules. Add your state’s due date to the checklist, so you won’t forget. Some will allow you to register on Election Day, but don’t count on it!
Different states have different requirements for registering. You may need a state-issued ID, a photo ID, a piece of mail from your current address, or other documents. This site will tell you what you need to do in your state. Write down the requirements, and the address of the place you need to register, on the checklist.
Once you’ve registered, check off that box in the bottom corner!
Then you’ll need to find your polling place. Depending on where in your city you live, your polling place will be different. You can look this up on your voter’s registration card, if you have it, or your county’s website. Rock the Vote also put together a site that will look it up for you. Add your polling place address to the checklist!
If you’re busy on election day, that Rock the Vote link will also provide you with your early voting options! I’ll probably vote early just in case anything crazy comes up, since my Tuesdays are pretty packed.
There are a ton of reasons to absentee vote. Maybe you’re studying abroad. Maybe you’re too late to switch your registration district. Maybe you care a lot about the Congressional race in your home district. Doesn’t matter why you want to, but this site is a great resource to get you started. You can use the checklist’s “Polling Place” section to track when you need to mail by, the address you need to mail to, and any other details.
Vote For More Than Just President
Don’t get me wrong, the President is an important politician. But when it comes to your day to day life, your Congressional, state and local elections have a huge effect on you. Don’t just turn out for this election, but midterm elections in two years, as well.
I added an “I’m Voting For…” section to the checklist. This might seem silly, if you’re just thinking you’ll choose between Clinton and Trump. But as you get into more state and local options, you might lose track of who, exactly, you want to vote for. Use this section to keep track as you research!
To learn more about your Congressional options, check out an interactive voting guide like VoteSmart to learn more about options in your district. For more specific local information, consult your local newspaper – they’re sure to profile candidates.
Voting for these offices takes a little more research, but it’s also crucial for supporting your chosen Presidential candidate. They’ll need the support of Congress to make their vision a reality.
On Voting Day
First of all, bring your checklist! I find that knowing what I’ve done, and what I need to do, eases my anxiety a lot!
Either vote or don’t complain about the government. pic.twitter.com/xk0r7W2fon
— Megan Schaefer (@megan_schaef) March 15, 2016
Be aware of your state’s restrictions on behavior around polling, but to play it safe, don’t try to influence other voters, don’t wear clearly partisan clothing or accessories, and keep your excitement to reasonable levels until after you’ve left the polling place. If you’re confused or have any questions, your election judges will be happy to help! And despite the name, they won’t judge you for having questions. They’re just thrilled that you’re getting the vote out.
Also, take that “I voted” sticker and wear it with pride. It’s easy to act like it doesn’t matter whether you vote or not, easy to say “One vote doesn’t make a difference.” But if everyone who thought that way voted, well. I think we’d see a big difference.
Democracy is a collective action. You might not see the results of the small things you do – like voting – but you have to trust that you’re part of a large system, a vehicle for change, this ridiculous, beautiful experiment in which the government moves at the will of the people. We have an opportunity to live in a country where the government works for us, not the other way around. We have an incredible privilege in being able to vote. So go. Vote. Save the world. It’s easier than you think.