Voting: How You May Be Eligible To Vote In An Upcoming Election

Natalie Bachman

With the 2022 midterm elections behind us and the 2024 presidential election quickly approaching, it goes without saying that voting plays a critical role in our democracy. All United States citizens become eligible to vote when they turn 18. However, the reality is that most teenagers don’t take advantage of this opportunity. A study by Tufts University found that only 26.8% of citizens aged 18-19 cast a ballot in the 2018 election. 

Although one vote may not change the course of an election, voting encourages young people to become involved in the political process and learn how to advocate for themselves and their communities. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of reasons youth should consider pre-registering (or registering) to vote, along with some tips for your first election day.

  1. Pre-register to vote

Many people pre-registered to vote when they take their drivers license test, but you can also do it online at this website. Pre-registering ensures that your voter registration will become active on your 18th birthday and eliminates any hassle to confirm your registration before election day.

In order to pre-register, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be 16 or 17 years old
  • A United States citizen and a resident of the state you intend to register in
  • Not a convicted felon
  • Not currently found mentally incompetent as determind by a court vote
  1. Political Parties

When pre-registering to vote you will also have to select a political party. However, you will likely not agree with every single view of a particular party. Truthfully, it only matters for the primary elections. This is when you will vote for a candidate to represent your political party in the final election. If you register as a Republican, for example, you can still vote for a Democrat in the final election.

When selecting a political party, you should research key issues that each group is focusing on. Some popular ones include Minimum Wage, Climate Change, Border Security, and Gun Control. Use a variety of sources (including neutral, left, and right) and avoid extremist publications to ensure you understand all sides of the issue. Some resources include the Republican National Platform, The Democratic National Platform, and various matrices that compare the two. 

There are minor parties beyond these major two (such as Independent, Libretarian, Green, etc). Many of these parties are centered around specific issues, or combine the ideas of multiple political parties.

  1. Understanding The Ballot

I’m not going to lie: I was incredibly confused while skimming through the issues on my parents’ ballots this year. Luckily the Internet has many sources at your fingertips. The California Government’s “Quick Guide To Propositions” website gives explanations of each issue, including the ramifications of a “yes” and “no” vote. They also include a list of organizations and individuals who are supporting each proposition (although please keep in mind that you should vote based on your personal beliefs, not solely those of your family, friends, peers, and political party). Most major news organizations will also provide election coverage and explanations.

Elections are the centerpiece of our democracy, and engaging in the political process is both an educational and rewarding experience. Following elections and voting in them can be rewarding, and inspires you to discover your own value.

If you would like to pre-register to vote, head to THIS link.
And if you’re 18 and would like to register to vote, head HERE.

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