It can be easy to lose sight of your local elections during a presidential-election year, or the opposite if presidential elections are all you focus on – but local elections are important! If economic issues are being voted on, the decisions could directly affect your income, taxes or financial planning. Follow these simple steps to make sure you’re on top of the election in your area.
Make Sure You’re Registered to Vote
This one sounds like a no brainer, but the easiest way to lose on Election Day is to not double check your voting status. You are, ultimately, the person in charge of your registration status, so don’t assume your city or hometown will take care of this – regardless of their reputation. Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to see if you’re registered to vote in the internet age. A quick Google search of “How do I register to vote in [county/city/town], [state]” should lead you to a website that will do most of the heavy lifting for you. I did a quick search for my county and city in Michigan and was led to their easy-to-use site. Good news, dear reader; I’m registered to vote this November!
If you aren’t registered to vote, there are a few ways to get yourself registered – but first you have to meet your state’s guidelines. Every state has their specific rules and guidelines for registration, but most of them follow these three guidelines:
- You must be a citizen of the United States.
- You must be at least 18 years old at the time of the election.
- You must be a resident of the state you’re voting in (absentee-ballot rules vary per state).
From there, some states have more specific rules: convicted felons can’t vote, you can’t claim voting rights in any other state, you can’t be labeled as incompetent by a judge in the state you’re voting in, and more. Google has set up an awesome interface to check out any state’s voting registration requirements. You can check it out by searching “voter registration in [state]” on the site, or follow the example here. Finally, make sure you’re registered to vote at least 30 days before the actual election so they have ample time to process your registration information.
Find out Where You’re Voting and Plan Accordingly
Finding out where you’re supposed to vote is an often overlooked step in the process, especially when it comes to planning your day around it. Luckily, it’s still the 21st century, and Google has once again made it incredibly easy for us to find out where we need to vote. You can search “where do I vote in [state]” to find a drop-down menu similar to the one we saw earlier, but with information on how to find your specific voting location. If the drop-down menu is leading you the wrong way, searching for your county’s designated area via their website will usually do the trick. In a worst-case scenario, try the closest public school or building in your area – that will typically be your voting location.
One obvious, but often forgot part of Election Day preparation is blocking out a time to vote. For those of us with 9-5 jobs, make sure you carve out a chunk of your day to vote, or deal with the long lines that the post-work rush inevitably bring. Keep in mind that most states will allow you to use an absentee ballot via mail if you can’t make it to your location that day, but that require some extra leg work and mailing it on the date designated by your state, most likely before the election. Definitely research your state’s requirements on absentee ballots if you choose to go this route.
Inform Yourself on the Issues Prior to Voting
Walking into a voting booth without examining the items on the ballot beforehand is like not studying for a test in high school, but your whole class gets the bad grade. We can’t really get into specific advice here because there’s just too many states to cover, but you owe it to yourself and your community to research all ballot items before you step into the booth. Tax issues are a no brainer: do you think the proposed cuts or increase will truly value your community? Again, it’s hard to get into specifics on any issue, but every election holds a vote that will directly affect you, your family, and the members of your community. Research well, and think hard about which direction you’re voting.
That’s all the tips we have from us here at Zing, but if we missed any information that you think is vital, feel free to comment below with more information.
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