First Time Voters: The Voting Process Explained
by Atiya King
The 2020 election is less than two weeks away, and it’s pretty much all anyone can talk, tweet, post, and argue about.
Former President Barack Obama tweeted that this election is the most important election of our lifetimes.
13 days until the most important election of our lifetimes. And you don’t have to wait until November 3rd to cast your ballot. Make a plan, vote, and then help your friends and family make a plan at https://t.co/XdZz4dh82T. Let’s do this. https://t.co/kmpF2XtLkH
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 21, 2020
He is right. The importance of this election can’t be overstated. Everything from the future of our planet to COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter is up in the air, so everyone’s voices matter. We need all hands on deck.
If you’re a first-time voter, how to vote can be confusing, especially since voter suppression is alive and thriving, and COVID numbers are on the rise. Because of these issues, it’s essential to have a plan for Nov. 3, 2020. So, to make your life a little easier, let’s get into what you need to do at the polls.
Do Your Homework
This is incredibly important. Yeah, you’ve heard everyone talking about President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden. You’ve heard the words Republican, Democrat, liberals, and conservatives thrown around, but what does it all mean? Why should you care? Well, because you need to know where you stand in the grand scheme of things. What are your beliefs? What are your opinions about the society you live in? What do you want from the people in charge? And, what do you want in a president? You have to be able to form an opinion before you cast your vote.
The first step you can take is reading and watching the news. And don’t get your information from only one or two sources. Just like you learned in school, check multiple sources and fact-check. You are looking for an unbiased view of the issues. A good place to look is on candidates’ websites. On each of their sites, you will find their stance on everything from immigration to health care to education and even how to volunteer. Most candidates have social media feeds. Follow them to see what they are about. Do the work. All of the research papers you’ve written over the years have prepared you to be an expert investigator.
But wait! There’s more to voting than the presidential election. There are also state and local elections that you can vote on as well. State and local elections are just as important, if not more important, than the national elections. Many issues that we deal with every day are decided at the local level. Here’s what you need to know:
The judges we elect have the power to imprison people or give them freedom.
The District Attorney and Attorneys General we elect have the power to prosecute police brutality or let it go without consequences.
People on the Board of Education can fight for more funding, or advocate for teachers’ and students’ safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Comptrollers oversee audits, taxes, and financial reports to ensure that money is being appropriated and used properly in cities and communities. City council members make decisions about where local money goes.
You can even elect the sheriff in your town.
Remember what you learned in Government 101? It’s okay if you don’t remember what you learned in that class. I’ll explain it.
The United States Congress, the legislative arm of the U.S. government, consists of two bodies: the Senate (upper chamber) and the House of Representatives (lower chamber). Passing legislation requires the consent of both the House and Senate and the agreement of the President.
Today, Congress consists of 100 senators (two from each state) and 435 voting members of the House of Representatives. The number of representatives a state has is determined by its population.
On Nov. 3, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate are being contested, so while you may know who you want as president, you may need to do a little more research when it comes to the other choices.
Make a Voting Plan
Now that you know whom you’re voting for, you have to find out your polling place’s location. Polling Place Locator is an excellent place to start. Just type in your zip code and other information, and Voila! You know where to go. Next, grab your identification because some states require it when you go to vote. If you’re worried about what you may need to bring, call your polling place and ask.
Because of COVID, social distancing requirements, and fewer polling places in some areas, lines have been extremely long, so make sure that you give yourself enough time. You may even consider wearing comfortable shoes and taking some water, snacks, and a folding chair, just in case.
Feel prepared? Great!
The Poll Hero Project is looking for high school and college students to sign up to be poll workers on election day. And yes, you will get paid for your time. On average, poll workers can earn $74 to $500 for working, though it varies based on location and amount of time worked. Normally, poll workers tend to be on the older side, but due to COVID, many are unable to participate this year because of higher risks of complications—and their spots need to be filled.
See ya on Nov. 3, 2020. Be safe.
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