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How to Vote Responsibly

If you’re in the US, we’ve got a little less than a week until the midterm elections. If you’re like I was a few years ago, you might not be overly interested in voting in this election. It’s just a midterm election, right? It’s true, you can’t vote out the Orange One on November 6th. But you can vote out his muscle. Here are six tips for how to vote responsibly:

  1. The first step in voting responsibly is to vote at all.
    Voter apathy is incredibly high in the US, partially because it often feels like our votes don’t matter. It’s true, the popular vote does not always align with the electoral college vote, and it’s true that votes are miscounted and tampered with all the time, but giving up is not the answer either. Politicians know that voters feel a sense of hopelessness about their representation. In fact, they depend on it. If voters are too dejected to engage in politics, they will fail to see what a difference they can really make, and crappy politicians get to stay in office. Recent politics suggest that the US needs a major political overhaul, and resisting within the system won’t make the radical changes that need to be made in order to uphold justice for all—but refusing to vote won’t do that either.
  1. Double-check everything for election day ahead of time.
    Make sure you’re registered, look up your polling location and hours, confirm a means of transportation, and make sure you bring any necessary documents to confirm your ability to vote. All of these requirements differ based on your state, or even your county, so don’t make any assumptions. Look it up.If you don’t have a car or access to public transportation, there’s no need to panic. Lyft and Uber have both teamed up with non-profit organizations to help people get to the polls through free and discounted rides. Find more details on how you can access a code for a free or discounted ride to the polls with Lyft and with Uber at these links.
  1. Determine the five political issues that are most important to you.
    Do not pick one issue. Do not pick two issues. Pick at least five issues that you are invested in. Focusing on only one or two issues allows the politicians to pander to niche interests and sway you to their side, even when you disagree with the majority of their beliefs. It’s okay to not know five issues you really care about off the top of your head—I certainly didn’t the first time I did my research and really voted responsibly. Start by simply Googling something like “political issues 2018,” or perusing websites like Ballotpedia.
  1. Once you know what you care about, look up what the candidates care about.
    It’s important that this step come after the previous one. The problem with researching the candidates before you know which issues are important to you is that you can get swept up in the fishbowl of political drama if you don’t know what grounds you. You don’t want the crappy things they do in their personal lives (the things that prove they’re human, not things like sexual assault or domestic violence) to get in the way of electing the most qualified candidate to represent your expectations for your government.Once you feel confident in what issues are most important to you, carefully research each candidate. In most states, you can access a sample ballot that perfectly matches what you’ll see on election day on your state’s government website. I also recommend checking out Ballot Ready, a website that generates a voter guide that includes all the offices and issues being voted on for your address, explains different candidates’ positions on various issues, and succinctly explains what each political office actually does. You can also find your polling location through Ballot Ready, if your state government site isn’t working.
  1. Bring a cheat sheet.
    As with all other voting laws, the rules on cell phone usage differ based on which state you’re voting in. Some states allow you to use your phone, so you can simply look up a candidate if you forget which one you wanted to vote for, but other states have a no-cell-phone policy, and some can even charge you with a misdemeanor for using your phone in the polling place. You can find out your state’s policies and laws about cell phone usage at the polls using this link, but just in case, I recommend bringing a cheat sheet. On a sticky note or small piece of paper that can be easily folded into your pocket or purse, write the offices and issues on your ballot and how you want to vote for each one.
  1. Finally, double-check your choices before submitting your ballot.
    Whether you have a paper or electronic ballot, double-check your choices before submitting. If your polling location uses paper ballots, you just need to make sure you didn’t color in the wrong bubble. But if you’re voting electronically, there are two issues you need to look out for. The first is similar to the paper ballot issue: make sure you didn’t click the wrong button. But even if you’re absolutely sure you selected the correct candidate, or if you opted to vote “straight ticket” Democrat or Republican, you still need to make sure all of your choices are correct on the confirmation screen. For many years, voters have reported issues with the electronic systems changing their votes. Whether this is an innocent, albeit serious, technological error or an intentional manipulation of election results, it’s important to double-check your ballot before submitting.

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