Casting your vote: a first-time voter’s guide to the 2020 election

12 October 2020

Audrey Taylor: News Editor

Since the 2016 general election, almost 15 million people in the United States have turned 18, making them eligible to vote. The numbers may seem substantial, but when presenting how many of those people voted, the results are not as impressive. In the 2018 midterm elections, stated that 18-24-year-olds made up only 36% of voters. So why are young people not voting? A large determinant of low voter turnout amongst young voters–especially first-time voters–is the time it takes to figure out how to do it. So, here is a breakdown.

Register. Set aside about 10 minutes, visit, and fill out your information, making sure important details are accurate, including your date of birth, social security number, and home address. If you are not 18 yet, you can still pre-register in your state and be eligible when you reach the voting age! The process might be tedious, but when it is done, it is done!

Do your research. Pre-existing biases may impact the way a person looks at their ballot. Because of this, it is important to set aside biases and to research valuable and objective information.
Research can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to presidential candidates. Mitchell Carpenter, a Senior at Yucaipa High School says that the most stressful part of being a first-time voter is “the concept of ‘Am I choosing the right candidate…?’” He stated, “I just hope that the person that I vote for turns out to be a plus for this country and not a negative leader.”
So, that is exactly where you should start! Find the topics that are most important to you. What do you have an opinion on? And if you cannot find one, keep looking. There is always something on the ballot for everyone!

Decide. Once you find it, research who is running for office in your area and see what they stand for. Chances are, local officials, state politicians, and presidential candidates all have an opinion on whatever you do too ! Your goal should be to figure out who represents your values and beliefs best. Do not vote for someone just because you think you like them!
But politicians are not the only things on the ballot. There are also plenty of propositions on a wide range of topics as well. Research how they might affect you, your family, and those around you before deciding what to vote for or against. Absorbing information from a variety of sources is the best way to become an informed voter.

Vote. After you have registered and done your research, the next step is to vote! While the official election date is November 3rd, there are some other important deadlines to keep in mind this year. All eligible voters in California will be receiving mail-in ballots this year, due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. If you wish to vote by mail, your ballot must be completed and sent back BEFORE November 3rd. Delays with USPS may cause your ballot to take longer than usual to be postmarked, so it would be wise to send in the ballot no later than a week before the official election date. If sent it in any later, you might risk your ballot not being counted. To avoid this worry, you can bring your ballot to your polling place between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. In case of in-person voting, make sure to bring a form of identification just in case. Visit your polling place, get in line, and cast your vote!

Being a first-time voter might feel intimidating, but like most learning experiences, it gets easier with time. Not only that, but a representative democracy thrives on large voter turnout. No matter how little you believe your voice matters, it does! And when given the opportunity to use it, you should! Writers at the National Geographic Society say, “Your vote may not directly elect the president, but if your vote joins enough others in your voting district or county, your vote undoubtedly matters.” So, if you’re 18 this year, register, research, and vote!

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