The big day we’ve been waiting for is almost here: the 2020 presidential election. For months and months, there’s been no ignoring the campaigns (maybe you’ve even been volunteering!) and the air of anticipation of this major decision. And this time around, Gen Z could play an important role in deciding the future U.S. president and other political leaders, as about 10 percent of this year’s eligible voters were born in 1997 or later.
Voting gives you the power to make your voice heard regarding issues that are important to you, whether that be the environment, college tuition, healthcare, or something else entirely. Read on to find out how you can prepare for the election.
1. Know the Ballot
While much of the attention is on the presidential election, it’s likely not the only contest that’ll be on your ballot. Depending on where you live, you may also be voting for board of education members, general attorneys, state representatives, and senators, just to name a few examples. Sometimes there are also questions about initiatives that you can vote yes or no on. These matters are as equally as important as voting for the president, because the decisions will have an impact at the local level and can directly affect your daily life. So you don’t want to wait until you’re inside a voting booth to do your research! Before Election Day, visit Ballotpedia or your county’s website to see a sample ballot. Bonus: This will also help you familiarize yourself with what the ballot looks like, so you’ll know how to fill it out properly when the time comes.
2. Be Informed
Sure, you see the headlines and tweets, but are you truly paying attention to who’s running for office? Don’t just believe what you read on social media. Most candidates have information on their website about their platforms, from the economy to immigration to the coronavirus pandemic. This is an excellent place to start, so you can see how you align with each person running for office and form your own opinions. You may also want to compare a few trusted news sources for the latest details.
3. Have a Plan
Like everything else about 2020, this election will be different—and because of that, it’s even more crucial that you have a voting plan. First things first, check to make sure you’re registered to vote. A resource such as HeadCount can verify that you’re a registered voter (or help you get registered if you aren’t) and tell you the location of your polling place.
Once you confirm your voter registration, research how your state is handling this year’s election. While Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, some states have early voting or vote by mail. Early voting means you go to a polling place before Election Day to vote in-person. This is a good option if you are worried about long lines or if you’re unable to take off from school or work on Election Day. Check your county’s website to see if this is an option.
Vote by mail could be another voting option for you. Certain states require you to request a vote-by-mail ballot, while other states will automatically send you one in the mail. If you want to go this route and don’t have your ballot yet, contact your county’s board of elections. Once you have your mail-in ballot, it’s very important that you follow the directions—or else your vote could be discounted. That means using the right color pen to bubble in your choices, signing your signature in the appropriate spots, and carefully sealing every envelope. Once you’ve signed and sealed it, stash it in your Weekender Mini Bag so it’s safe on your way to deliver it. You have a few secure options: drop it off in a mailbox or at the post office ahead of time, hand-deliver it your municipality, or give it to a poll worker on Election Day. After you’ve sent it off, you may even be able to track your ballot online.
Of course, there is also the most well-known voting option: voting in-person on Election Day. Before you leave your house, make sure you know the correct location to vote. Sometimes voting takes just minutes, while other times there are long lines. Be prepared by wearing comfortable shoes and tucking a snack in your Fifth Avenue waistpack, just in case it’s the latter.
One last thing to keep in mind: In some states, it's illegal to take a selfie with your ballot, so if you're not sure about the laws, don't take any photos. Every state has its own set of rules for voting, so always check your state or county’s website to help you create a successful voting plan.
Voting is hardly a simple decision, but it’s one of the most important choices we make. Take time to prepare for the election, so you can ensure your voice is heard. Get ready to change the world!
By: Katie Nolan