Everything You Need to Know for November 6 2018 Midterm Elections: voting day & what to expect
2018 midterm elections are coming up. This is the time for us as United States citizens to exercise our right and privilege to vote in an effort to change our nation, state, and county. How exciting!
Wait, you’re not excited? Why not? Are you voting? Are you registered to vote? Do you know what a midterm election is?
Well, statistics show that the older generation cares way more about voting than younger generations. Why aren’t more young people voting? This is an opportunity for younger generations to gain more control over policies that affect their lifestyles.
It could be because younger generations are unaware and uninterested. They may not realize the direct impact of voting, and how it changes our lives depending on where and how we live. Celebrities have recently come out of the woodwork to change this. For example, Taylor Swift who initiated a spike of 65,000 new voter registrations after she shared her views.
Let’s simplify the politics and get down to the nitty-gritty to make it all less intimidating. Here’s everything you need to know about midterm elections, voting day, and what to expect when you head down to place your ballot.
What Are Midterm Elections?
You learned back in elementary school that a president’s term is four-years long, meaning presidential elections occur every four years. Well, “midterm elections” are the elections held halfway through a presidential term. The two-year mark is a time for review of Congress and the current term. It’s a time to elect new state representatives to fill the changing, empty seats of the House and Senate.
Whereas presidential elections use Electoral College votes to declare a “winner,” these midterm elections take into consideration the direct vote of each individual in a US state — yes, us! You and me! The people!
Are You Registered?
If you’re confused about registering to vote or whether you’re good to hit the polls this year, take 10 seconds to check your registration status here. You may have already registered to vote when y0u got your driver’s license or listed a change in address.
Many voting registration deadlines have passed, but there are still a handful of states that allow for registration up until Election Day, November 6. You can register to vote here.
Each of us makes a significant impact in midterm elections because direct individual votes are counted. THAT is why voting in the Midterms is so important. But how do we know who to vote for?
How To Research Candidates
This is a difficult question to tackle because there’s no such thing as one website or definitive book that covers everything you need to know about a person or thing. When it comes to voting, making an educated decision depends on your unique beliefs, values, judgments, and political affiliation.
Depending on whether you’re a republican, democrat, independent, etc., you may choose to seek information from the sources (TV channels, websites, publications) that favor your particular party… but that’s not necessarily the best strategy, because it’s biased.
Pay Attention to Your Sources
Fake news has been a huge topic since Trump began his presidency. And as funny as it can be to make an internet joke out of things being “fake news,” the biggest mistake people make is to actually trust opinions or articles without fact-checking them.
People love gossip and drama. They want to hear bad things or false information about people they don’t like. Don’t automatically convince yourself that something you read on Facebook where a bunch of people leave negative comments about a candidate is 100% valid.
You want to be wary of false information and propaganda. Avoid voting for someone because your best friend votes a certain way or because a celebrity campaigns for a specific candidate. Know what’s going on and make a well-informed vote according to what you believe is best, right, and just.
Get a Sample Ballot
Did you know you can get a sample ballot before voting day? It’s a good strategy to know exactly what you’ll be looking at on November 6. You can get yours by filling out your zip code and email here.
Discover the Best Candidate for You
It’s important to research everything that you can about all candidates. Two reliable platforms to check out are NPR’s Midterm Elections section and Ballotpedia’s voter guide feature. The voter guide enables you to see candidate biographies and how they’ve voted in the past, but do your own digging. Google the names of the candidates and read as much as you can from multiple sources to gather as much unbiased information as possible. Hear all sides and facts before you make your vote.
You can also take this “Vote Easy” interactive quiz from Vote Smart which lets you answer questions and pairs you up with your “politician soulmate.” For example, here’s a snapshot of Michigan’s quiz:
What To Expect At Voting Polls
The actual act of voting takes like, five minutes. You walk in, sign a book, receive your ballot, place your vote, and leave. You can do it on your way to work or on your lunch break.
Find Out Your Poll Times
Discover when and where you can vote in the Midterm elections this year. This Business Insider article outlines all of the important dates and times you need to know and be aware of before voting. Here are when polls open and close in every state:
Depending on the time you go and the location of your polling place, there may be a line. You might have to wait a bit, but legally you have two hours to place your vote. If it feels long, power through. Bring a book or headphones.
Check Your State’s ID Requirements
What you should bring to the polls varies by state. In the past, you typically did not need to bring an official photo ID like a driver’s license to vote. But now new laws are coming in place to change this. Before you hit the polls, be sure to check out your state’s requirements online. You can find your local polling place here and figure out what you need to bring to avoid any surprises once you arrive.
What Is Voter Suppression?
Voter suppression is something that is done to prevent someone from voting or to sway a person from voting a certain way. This can be anything like, someone blocking the entrance to a polling place, somebody printing a fraudulent article, someone physically preventing you from entering a polling place, or gerrymandering.
This midterm election, voter suppression has been enacted prevalently in two ways:
1) Stronger voting requirements (such as showing an official ID, which many low-income people may not have)
2) Enacting “use it or lose it” laws, which disenfranchise voters if they haven’t voted in a past election within a prescribed period of time.
How can we change this? How can we avoid this from happening?
In order to prevent voter suppression from happening, we must become aware of the issues at hand. In 2016, approximately 92 MILLION American registered voters did not vote in the presidential elections. As time goes on, statistics have shown that young adults and people of color aren’t voting, and older generations make up about 50-60% of all voters.
Different states also have different laws which impact how voters can register. “If I wanted to register people to vote in Texas, I would have to be deputized in the county that the registree lives in and bring their form to that county’s board of election office in five days,” says Katrina Vassallo from HeadCount.org, an organization that drives young voter registrations at concerts and music events. “How to prevent voter suppression is to help people know their rights and help register people to vote.” Do your research by visiting reputable websites like USA.gov to learn which new voting policies have been passed that might affect how you vote in your state and county.
Voting is both a right and a privilege, and it’s time that we take advantage of it. The fact that some elected officials are trying to take away rights to vote through voter suppression is a red flag. We have the ability to change this. November 6th is voting day. Whether you lean to the right or left or you prefer to spin around in circles, let’s get informed and change the world around us for the better. You are the future, and your voices are able to be heard. All you have to do is show up for the vote.
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