Every Smart Senior’s Guide to Voting in 2016

2016

If you are like most people, voting seems like a jigsaw puzzle. You can see the overall picture, but you are not quite sure how the pieces fit.

Your solution to this puzzle? Not voting this year. Or the next year. Or maybe ever. But it’s 2016—time for your voice to be heard. Here is a quick and easy guide to help you get through this voting season.

Step 1: Know the Facts

research for before voting

Voting is a great privilege, but with great privilege comes great responsibility. Make sure you know all the facts before you vote.

First things first: research the candidates. Know the candidates’ platforms inside and out. Don’t stop there, there is always more to know. Know what policies your presidential candidate supports and what policies they want to reform. They may seem like a perfect choice at first glance, but the devil is in the details.

The president will play a huge role in our futures, but they aren’t the only person on the ballot. It is your House and Senate vote that will decide exactly what the president’s limitations are so research these candidates as well. As the saying goes, an informed vote is a powerful vote.

Is it the day before the election and you didn’t have time to research? Do some quick research on your phone while you are waiting in line. Knowing something is always better than nothing. Your decision is your contribution.

Step 2: Register to Vote

registering to vote

This is the step that usually “Trumps” most people - registering to be eligible to vote. There are 3 ways you can register to vote. Here’s how they are broken down. Keep in mind the directions will vary slightly by state.

Online. Have your driver's license and the last 4 digits of your Social Security number ready. Visit the official government website on your desktop or phone. Select your state and fill out your information.

By mail. If you are old school, here is the answer: register by mail. Call your county elections office to have the registration form sent to your home. When it arrives, fill it out. Verify that you are a U.S. citizen who will be 18 years or older by November 8th. The rest is just your name and address. Now lick that stamp and mail it back in! Easy peasy.

In person. Registering in person is almost exactly like registering by mail. Go to the county elections office (or DMV/post office) instead of calling for the registration form. Fill it out with your information and turn it in.

Step 3: Prepare Before Election Day

hours of operation

Voting isn't a 2-minute process. You can’t just show up day of, cast your vote, and leave. Save yourself the headache and prepare a few things the day before.

Familiarize yourself with the location and hours of operation. Make sure you know exactly where the voting location is to use your time efficiently. Don't be afraid to ask for directions if you need it. You don’t want to drive around in circles wasting your time on election day.

Check the location’s hours. You don’t want to miss out on voting because you were too late. Many people assume that they can drop by any time to vote. That isn’t the case—there are always set hours of operation.

Vote ahead of time. Are you busy on election day but still want to vote? Don’t worry—you can cast your vote early. Go in person to your county elections office and cast your vote early with an absentee ballot. Dates for early voting will depend on your county. Don’t forget to bring some form of ID!

Step 4: Cast Your Vote!

snacking

It’s finally election day! You won’t be the only person who wants to vote so expect that there will be a line. Give yourself ample time to cast your vote. Don’t try to vote right before you need to pick up little Johnny from school.

Waiting in the lines can make you hungry, especially if you are voting before lunch. Remember to bring a snack and a bottle of water. Another tip: bring a friend. If you’ve got time to kill while waiting, why not pass time in line with a friend? The two of you can have a friendly conversation about your favorite candidates.

Take Action

Voting is crucial to our future yet the number of voters is dwindling. Don’t leave such a critical decision up to others. Take charge of your future. Your vote is your chance for your voice to be heard. Think that your vote doesn’t matter? Some elections have been as close as 193 votes – every vote matters. Now that you know exactly how easy it is to vote, what’s stopping you this year?

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