October 24, 2016

First Time Voter? 6 Things You Need To Know.

So it’s your first time (or first time in a while) voting in a general election, and this year you want your voice to be heard. You’ve been following the debates, checking the headlines, and maybe even downloaded some handy voter apps. But isn’t there a bunch of stuff you have to do before you can actually belly up to the ballot? Well, sort of…but not really.

TLDR: Know your deadlines, know your candidates, and vote! TLDR: Know your deadlines, know your candidates, and vote!

Take it from us, the path to the voting booth is way less intimidating than you might think—if you know where to find everything you need. Whether you’re voting in a different state, voting early, or just want some star-spangled pointers, you’ve come to the right place.

Register to vote

This is a really important one. Visit vote.org to find out if you’re registered, or click the “register to vote” tab to get started. They’ll direct you to your state’s website and fill you in on all the deadline details from there. But don’t just assume you’re registered—go check it out for yourself!

Voting early

If you’re a productivity nerd like us, voting early is for you. It’s the key to saving yourself from the Election Day hustle and bustle (which some people actually enjoy…no judgment). But like most things on November 6—it all comes down to the states. Most allow early voting, but they each have different rules around when and how you can do it. This complete list of how each state handles early voting is a good place to start, and can even point you in the direction of where you’ll actually need to be. 

Absentee ballots

It’s pretty simple—if you won’t be in the state you’re registered to vote in on November 6, you need to get your absentee ballot before it’s too late. Absentee ballots can even help you decide how your vote could affect the general election. To see where your vote counts the most, check out an interactive election forecast map.

Before heading out, check to make sure you’re polling location hasn’t changed. Image courtesy of BallotReady.org.Before heading out, check to make sure you’re polling location hasn’t changed. Image courtesy of BallotReady.org.

find your polling station

Ok, so normally we would avoid telling you to “just Google it”—but the search engine giant really has done an impressive job of delivering the facts this election year. Seriously…just Google “where to vote” and a handy pop-up will help you find your polling location. 

Understand the full ballot

We’re going to go ahead and assume that at this stage in the game, you know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision. But don’t forget—there are local candidates and issues on your ballot that have a real impact on your community. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the down-ballot candidates and questions today so you can get in and out of that booth. How do you know what’s going to be on your ballot? Check out ballotready.org for all the facts.

Check out BallotReady while you wait in line to brush up on local candidates and questions. Image courtesy of BallotReady.org.Check out BallotReady while you wait in line to brush up on local candidates and questions. Image courtesy of BallotReady.org.

General rules of the road

Election Day can seem a little hectic at times, but just remember: democracy is totally worth it. We recommend packing some snacks for waiting in line, and definitely suggest bringing a friend (or ten) to vote with you. You could also give a high-five or thumbs-up to one of the hard-working local volunteers to pass the time, too! (Just sayin’.) 

Also—there’s nothing more patriotic than being the Election Day carpool captain. Corral everyone together, drive to the polls, then celebrate afterwards by doing something American. After all, friends who vote together promote (the ideals of the nation) together, right? Right?!