5 Things You Need To Know Before Voting
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Politics and Activism

5 Things You Need To Know Before Voting

Make sure you can vote when the time comes!

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5 Things You Need To Know Before Voting

As we begin to race through President Obama’s last year in office, people across the country are anxiously awaiting their turn to help nominate a presidential candidate for each party. For many of us, this will be the first time we are eligible to vote, and we absolutely should.

Many of the issues plaguing the United States directly affect our future, and we should not stand idly by while older generations single-handedly determine the president leading us through the next crucial four years. As citizens of a democratic country, we have a responsibility to research the candidates and vote for the one we trust or believe will make a difference.

However, before voting, there are a few things you should know. Here are some voting “need-to-knows” simply explained.

1. Eligibility

In order to be eligible to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen, meet the residency requirements for your state, and be 18 years old. However, some states allow you to vote in the primaries at 17 if you will be 18 before the general election, so check out your state’s requirements.

2. Registering to vote

Because voting depends on state law, registration varies depending on where you live, but your state will either allow you to register online, have you complete the National Mail Voter Registration Form or register in person at places such as a state or local registration office, a DMV, an armed services recruitment center or any public place that a state has designated as a vote registration agency. You should register soon because some states have deadlines to register before the elections.

3. Caucus vs. Primary

You've probably heard about the approaching Iowa Caucus. Simply stated, a caucus is one of two methods states can use to pick delegates who will choose a presidential candidate for each party. On Feb. 1, Republican and Democratic caucuses, or meetings, will be held throughout the state of Iowa, where voters will choose the delegate they want to represent their county. The number of delegates varies by state, but these delegates will ultimately decide who gets the nomination in the national convention. A primary is more like a general election, in which people cast their votes for the person they want to win the nomination. Know which method your state uses, or if they use a combination of the two, to make sure your vote counts.

4. Open vs. Closed Primary

Your registration card will ask you which party you want to be affiliated with, but before you even register to vote, you should search whether your state has an open or closed primary!

If your state has a closed primary, you can only vote for one candidate who is in the party you are affiliated with on your registration card. So if you consider yourself an independent, but want to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, you will have to register as a Democrat. If your state has an open primary, you can vote in any primary regardless of your party membership, but you can only vote in one primary (meaning for one candidate). A less common type of primary is the blanket primary in which you can participate in all primaries, voting for candidates from multiple parties.

5. Voting Absentee vs. At Home


Many of us are college students, meaning we will be away from home when it’s time to vote. In this case, you can cast an absentee ballot, which will allow you to vote before the election. Research and contact your local or state government to see how to get an absentee ballot, but don’t wait too long because you often have to get this far in advance.

If you’re home, make sure to show up to your local polling station or polling place! In most states, you will get a card in the mail telling you where to go.


Happy voting!


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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