At age 18 one becomes a legal adult, and one of the big responsibilities of being 18 means you have the ability to vote. I turned 18 six months after the Presidential election, and so I have not yet had the opportunity to vote. However, on June 26th primary elections will take place, and so I decided to use my free time to fulfill my civic duty and research the candidates. This process proved to be more difficult than I thought, so I decided to write an article to make the voting process easier for first-time voters such as myself.
Wait, there's an election?
I know a good amount of you are thinking "Trump was just elected in 2016, we don't have another election until 2020!" Well you would be wrong. Certain districts in Maryland have government spots to be filled, and an election on November 6th 2018 will decide who will occupy those positions. However, those elections (which are called the general elections) will be mostly democrats versus republicans. So the primaries on June 26th 2018 are there to determine which democrat or which republican will move on to the general elections. I know a lot of people don't think these elections are important because there's nobody running for President, but these elections are as if not more important because they have the potential to create change in the place you live.
Can I vote?*
Okay I know I said in the introduction that you have to be 18 to vote, but little-known fact, if you are 18 by November 6th 2018 you are allowed to vote in the primaries. So that means all you 17-and-1/2-year-olds are able to cast your ballot. However, there are some restrictions on if you are able to vote. 1. You must be registered to vote by 21 days before the election, so in this case by June 5th, and 2. You must be registered with either the democratic or republican parties to vote in the primaries for certain offices. I believe that if you are not registered to either party you may be able to vote for certain positions like the Board of Education.
*These rules apply for the state of Maryland but may vary in other states.
How do I register to vote?
You are able to register to vote at the age of 16, and a lot of people (me included) choose to register at the time they receive their driver's license. If you know you're not registered to vote visit vote.gov to register quickly and easily. If you aren't sure if you're registered or if you just want to make sure you're good to go, click this link to check. I just did it and it's true that it literally took 30 seconds.
Where/when do I vote?
Well I'm glad you asked! This nifty little website allows you to find your polling place by just entering your address! In Maryland polling is open from 7am to 8pm. Bring some proof of residence.
What if I'm not home on June 26th?
Well, you have two options. You can do early voting, where you'll go to one of the early voting poll sites between June 14th and June 21st between 10am and 8pm, just make sure to bring proof of residence. If you don't want to do early voting, you can get an absentee ballot. With this you can get a ballot online if you have an MVA issued ID or you can go to your local board of elections. The dates for these vary based on whether you do it online or not.
What are districts?
This is probably the most complicated question because the complicatedness of trying to find this answer is what inspired me to write this article. Basically there are 3 different districts that you are a part of and they're all named with numbers. There's the congressional district, the legislative district, and the county council district. You can only vote for the people running from your district, unless they are an "at large" candidate, meaning that they are voted on by members of all districts. To find out what districts you're in and who is running for each district, you can use a multitude of websites, including the same website listed earlier where you can find your polling location, or ballotpedia.org.
Who do I vote for?
Well I'm not here to tell you who you should vote for (with the exception of County Council at large, vote for Bill Conway), but once you find out who's running from your districts you can use websites like this one and of course each of the candidates' campaign websites to find out what they support.
I hope this article answers your basic questions about voting, and I hope to see you at the polls on June 26!