November 6th is Election Day – but you have most certainly heard this already. Everyone is talking about the midterms this year. Often times, midterms are overlooked with far more attention given to presidential election years. However, forecasters predict that this year’s election will draw out the largest number of midterm voters in over 50-years.
The electorate is currently engaged — heading to the polls to let their leaders know that they are paying attention to what’s happening in the government and want their voices heard. As you are personally preparing to cast your midterm ballot, here’s a rundown of things to consider so that you can vote with confidence:
Find Your Polling Place
Election Day is November 6. Do you know your assigned polling place? Take a look at vote.org to know your location in advance.
As much as I wish that elections would not take place on a weekday (and I’m not alone… more people would vote on the weekend), the fact remains that our election tradition is to vote on the first Tuesday of the November. The good news is that the government works to ensure that employers will allow their employees to take time off to vote (often times fully paid for these hours). Explore your state’s specific policies here.
Make Sure You’re Registered
Perhaps you’ve never registered to vote before. Alternatively, you may have moved or changed your name and need to re-register. While the voter registration deadline has passed in many states, there’s still time to register in Colorado, Connecticut, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
Additionally, you can just show up at your assigned polling location and register on the day of the election in CA, CO, CT, DC, HI, IA, ID, IL, ME, MN, MT, ND, VT, WI, and WY.
Even if you missed the deadline to register for the 2018 election, head over to vote.org and sign up now to vote in the next election. 2020 isn’t far away!
Vote By Mail
If you want to vote by mail, make sure you’re signed up. In the majority of states there’s still time (although not much) to request your absentee ballot. Most ballots need to be received by November 6, but double check the laws in your state because there’s some variance.
Research Your Local Candidates
Certainly, there’s a temptation to just vote down your ballot for candidates who are affiliated with your party. However, just because someone aligns with your party, doesn’t mean they’re ideal to do the job. Take time to review the qualifications of all the candidates on the ballot. It’s okay to vote for candidates from the opposing party if you think they’re the most qualified person for the job.
Below are a few resources to learn more about your local candidates, and a few extra for the fellow Californians :).
Candidate Research Resources
States like Washington, California, and Nebraska deploy a unique “Top-Two Primary” approach. Most states chose the top Republican and top Democrat during the primaries to run against each other in the November election, but Top-Two instead pits whoever garners the most votes during the primary against each other. This can result in two candidates running against each other from the same party, and leave the voter in confusion. In cases like this, it’s even more important to review the candidates’ qualifications to make the best choice.
Research Your Local Propositions
Navigating local propositions can feel overwhelming. Unlike candidates, yes and no votes don’t clearly align themselves with a party; so you can’t just say, “Oh because I’m of this political party, I’ll just vote this way.”
A time consuming, but incredibly rewarding tradition I began in the 2012 election was to host a “proposition party.” I invite enough people to my home to represent the quantity of propositions on the ballot. Everyone is assigned a proposition to research and then they explain to the rest of us what the issue is all about. Lively and uplifting conversation ensues and everyone in attendance feels much more confident heading into the polls.
Proposition Research Resources
Don’t fear if you’re unable to be a part of a proposition party. Review your local newspaper’s endorsements, these reporters are well versed in the local politics and needs of your community. However, read these endorsements with a grain of salt. Certain newspapers are known to skew particularly left or particularly right. Most states have great local bi-partisan resources published by local community groups to simply break down the meaning behind the propositions. Google to find them!
For any Angelenos interested, here are the Los Angeles Times official endorsements:
Propositions are put on the ballot by the groups who have a vested interest in seeing them pass. Sometimes what’s good for their industry isn’t good for the community at large. If a proposition seems overly confusing or you just generally feel a sense of doubt around it, it’s okay to just vote no.
Activate Other Voters
You’re likely very passionate about the issues up for debate at the polls. It’s amazing to live in a country where (most) everyone is given the same opportunity to weigh in on our governmental process. However, it’s worth noting that certain demographics are more likely to show up and actually vote than other demographics. So, if a group opts out of voting, then political leaders won’t be incentivized to act in their best interests. Engaging in this election is about more than just casting your own vote. Can you empower others around you to do the same?
Take a look at HeadCount’s The Future is Voting Toolkit for super sharable (and cute) social media assets to encourage your friends and followers to vote.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that there are people living in America who cannot represent themselves at the polls: non-citizens, felons and people under 18. However, they live within this country and the decisions made here impact them. Consider talking to people in your life who may want to vote but cannot. (Extra credit… consider making new friends if you don’t yet know people from these voting-ineligible groups). You may be able to help give a voice to the issues that impact them as well when you enter the polls.