Voting doesn’t have to be a confusing hassle. If you have questions about how to vote in the upcoming election just take a look at the links below and find the quick answers you’re looking for:
Voting can seem complicated, especially if you just turned 18 and have never done it before. But it’s actually pretty simple! The upcoming election is also coming up faster than you might think. This coming February 3rd will be the first caucuses in Iowa, beginning the many caucuses, primaries, and conventions you’ll want to be a part of in order to participate in choosing the presidential candidates in the final election.
You need to prepare for the coming election now so that you’re prepared to vote in the primaries, and so you’re registered to vote in general. This way you aren’t taken by surprise when the final election rolls around and suddenly you have all these logistics to figure out. When it comes to voting, you also want to participate as early as possible so you can be informed and make your own educated choice.
Things to Know
There are a few general basics you’ll want to know about in order to understand elections and how they work.
Who can vote?
In order to vote you must be at least 18 years old, be a citizen of the United States, and be registered to vote. But if you’d like to double check the specific voting requirements of your state you can visit Vote.org.
What are the different kinds of elections?
You probably already know about the presidential election, but did you know there are many more elections you can be a part of?
Federal Elections: these elections include anyone in the federal government. This would include the president, members of congress, senators, and members of the house of representatives.
State Elections: this includes voting for state legislatures, governors, the attorney general, secretary of state, state supreme court, and any other members of the state judiciary. State elections are also the time where you might vote on state policies.
Local Elections: this is where you vote on county and city government officials, like sheriffs, the mayor, and school board members.
One of the first things that happens during election season are conventions for each party. These conventions are generally held nationally. It is where political parties all gather together to browse the nominees for the coming presidential election.
If you are registered to vote with a certain political party then you can go to that parties caucus. It is a meeting where people of a specific political party gather together. This can be where members of the party will register their preferences for who should be that party’s candidate. They also gather to discuss political policies pertinent to that group.
The primary elections are often simply referred to as the primaries. They are the preliminary voting that takes place to decide who the final candidates for the final election will be. Many people try out to be presidential candidates, so this process helps voters choose the specific candidate they would like to represent their party in the final election. This narrows down the field so that when it comes time to vote for the actual president, there aren’t 30 or more people you have to know about and choose from on the voting ballot.
What is the electoral college?
We actually use the electoral college to determine the presidential winner in the end. Each state has a number of electors who cast these electoral votes. These electors consider the votes of the people from their states and use that information to cast their electoral vote. It’s these votes that determine who wins the presidency.
What’s the election schedule?
There are many events to be aware of during election season that take place the year before and after election year. Here is a general outline of all the most important election events you are going to want to be aware of.
|The year BEFORE election year|
|Spring||Candidates start announcing their intentions to run for president|
|Summer||Primaries, caucus, and debates begin to take place|
|The year OF the election||July to September||Political parties choose their candidates|
|September to October||Presidential debates|
|December||Electoral College votes|
|The year AFTER election year|
|January||Congress counts the electoral votes|
|January 20th||Inauguration Day|
If you’d like to learn more about the basics of the presidential election, you can explore USA.gov to learn all about the voting and election process. This website even has educational videos and infographics to help you visually understand the process as well.
How Do I Vote?
One of the biggest questions people have when it comes to elections is how to vote. Thankfully this process really isn’t too complicated either. Basically you’ll want to register to vote, participate in primary elections, stay informed, and vote at your polling place on election day.
First: how to register to vote
The very first thing you’ll want to do is get registered to vote. You register to vote in your state of residency so that when you do vote, you’ll be a part of your state’s voting pool. Registering to vote is incredibly easy to do. You can do it in person or online.
Where can I register to vote in person?
- The DMV
- Armed forces recruitment center
- State and county public assistance offices
You can also quickly register online at Vote.gov. You can also check your registration status on this website to check if you’re already registered to vote.
You can also register by mail, if you are out of the country or out of your home state. All you have to do is fill out the National Mail Voter Registration Form found on USA.gov and then mail it to the address listed for you state.
Second: how to participate in the primaries
The candidates that will represent each party in the final vote needs to be chosen. Before election day arrives there will be primaries, caucuses, and political conventions to help narrow down the candidates. Different parties and states will do these preliminary voting events in varying ways.
If you want to vote in the primaries to help pick the final presidential candidates, then read, “When are the 2020 presidential election primaries?” to see when your state will hold their primaries. Then all you have to do is go to the primaries and participate in the preliminary voting so you can be a part of picking the final candidates.
During this time candidates will be narrowed down to the final few. They will also announce who their vice president would be, and then they go across the country campaigning, talking about their views and plans, and debating with other candidates until election day arrives. You can also help out your candidate of choice by volunteering or fundraising for their campaign!
Third: how to vote on election day
By participating in election events now, you can do your own research and watch debates to learn about the different presidential options, what they are all about, and what their presidential plans are. Then all that is left to do is go to your local, designated polling station on election day and cast your vote.
Election Day is always on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This upcoming election day will be on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
The only way you can cast your ballot is in person, or by mail. There is no way to vote online, so when election day comes you’ll need to be prepared to physically go to the polls, or be prepared ahead of time to mail in your ballot.
To find your polling place type in your address at VotingInfoProject.org to see where you’re designated polling station is.
If you are going to be absent from your registered state, or need to vote by mail for any other reason, then you’ll need to use the website for you state to find out how they want you to cast your absentee ballot.
What do I need to bring to vote?
The only thing you may need to bring with you to the polls is a form of identification. Whether ID is required for you to vote or note will depend on your state. You can check your state’s requirements for what to bring with you to the polling station by visiting NCSL.org.
How to Vote Early
There are many things that can make voting on election day difficult. But don’t let finances be one of them. If you need some financial help to get to the polls just take out an easy to use personal loan from Check City.
Whatever your reason, if you need to vote earlier than election day, it will depend on your state and whether they allow early voting. States usually have specified early voting dates.
Generally you don’t have to give them an excuse as to why you need to vote early, but this also might depend on your state.
The best way to see what you’ll need to do to vote early in your state is to find your state’s official website. You can do this by choosing your state at USA.gov and they’ll bring up your state’s official website. This site will then have your state’s specific information about early voting.
How to Vote in Midterm Elections
Midterm elections, or congressional elections, occur every 2 years. They happen in between presidential elections. They include voting for members of congress, the house of representatives, and the senate. These elections don’t use the electoral college but instead use the popular vote. The last midterm elections occurred November 6, 2018. If you want to participate in the next congressional elections just visit USA.gov for more information on when they are and how to vote in them.
How to Vote in Local Elections
The presidential election isn’t the only election you should be involved in, there are local elections going on all around too. These elections are equally important as the people put into office and the policies that get decided are all things that will affect your immediate community. Don’t just deal with whatever happens, be a part of shaping your community.
Voting is an important part of being an active member of society. Your voice matters and voting is one way to make your voice heard. Don’t let misconceptions about voting keep you from getting to the polls and doing your part to help our society and grow.
written by Kimber Severance, Check City Copywriter