Like most of us, you’ve seen the debates – or at least the highlights (lowlights?) online – and are in a state of shock. What did we just watch?
This madness is going to continue through Election Day, which is November 8, and you, at least, are in the fortunate position to be able to vote and have your say in a presidential year; whether there’s one candidate you kind of like, or none at all.
Little kids will read about this wild election some day in their textbooks, and you’ll be able to say you played a role in the outcome! (Or, maybe you wouldn’t want to admit that.)
In any case, voting is a private thing, and you should do it. It’s a part of being an adult.
Yeah, we know, the Electoral College … blah, blah, blah. Don’t listen to the naysayers. You will be glad you casted a ballot after, win or lose. Trust us on this.
Am I Registered?
If you are picking up this newspaper in early October – good news! You still have time to register to vote. Your form just has to be postmarked by October 14 in New York State, October 18 in New Jersey, October 19 in Massachusetts and November 1 in Connecticut. You can go to any post office in the county in which you live and quickly fill out a form. If they don’t have them in the lobby, just ask the postal clerk. You can also find the forms online, but you still may have to print them out and mail them in, so you may as well just use the post office forms. (You can register fully online in most states, now, so if you really hate the post office, try Google first.)
If you pick up this paper after the dates listed above for your state, don’t fret. You may be registered to vote anyway. Maybe a rep from the League of Women Voters or a similar group had a table that you visited one day. Maybe when you got your driver’s license at DMV, you checked off a simple box that registered you to vote. Call your county Board of Elections. Don’t email. They won’t answer email. They are stuck in the last century. Just Google “(Your County) Board of Elections (Your State)” and you will get the number. Call. Get a cranky bureaucrat. Ask if you are registered. If they say yes, then ask where your polling place is. (There are also “voter lookup” sites to see if you are registered. Again, Google.)
Then go to the polls before or after classes. Most polling places, including the states mentioned above, are open until 9 p.m. If you have a 6 to 9 p.m. class that night, the instructor may let you go early without penalty to vote. Just ask. No excuses.
What Can I Expect?
You’re a community college student. You probably have encountered the Scrantron Test. You know, with the little bubbles that you have to color in. Most polling places give you a giant sheet with the candidates’ names listed and a felt-tip marker, you go behind a curtain, click off the candidates you like, give it to a worker and they scan it into a machine; your ballot gets sucked in with a loud whirring noise and a metallic bonk. It’s not all that romantic, but neither are Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
There may be a line of people – most of the voters may be much older than you. Don’t let that intimidate you. Just do your duty and move on.
Who Are All of These Local Candidates?
You are going to see a whole bunch of races other than President on the ballot: Assembly, Congress and more. In a perfect world, you would have investigated all of the races before going to the polls and entered with a clear idea of which candidates you like.
In reality, many voters know little if anything about the lesser races. In such cases, it is OK not to vote for any candidate in that race. Many people just go in and vote for President and nothing else. Now, that’s not suggested, or optimal, but it’s probably more irresponsible to merely vote for a person based on their name alone, or their party symbol. You can leave a column blank, if you are unsure.
Who Are These Other Presidential Candidates?
You may notice that there’s more than just Clinton and Trump in the presidential column. That’s because third parties do exist in America, though they get little press. The minor-party candidates getting the most traction are Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and Jill Stein, a Green. The Libertarians are for minimal government and laissez-faire economics and the Greens are in favor of social justice, equal rights and sustainability/preservation. Because of the Electoral College system – where candidates must win whole states – neither of these two can win, but it’s not wrong to cast a vote for a third-party candidate all the same; especially in our region, where Clinton is expected to win easily, anyway. You won’t be a “spoiler.” If third parties get more and more votes, the press will have to pay attention to them, eventually.
OK, So If My Vote Doesn’t Matter, Why Bother?
Your vote does matter. First, voting shows you are a part of society. Second, whether you vote or not gets recorded and shows your commitment to the community. You may want to run for office someday and your opponent will look at your voting attendance. Third, your vote does matter to the other candidates on the ballot, as well as to the parties you choose. Research at least one other race and at least vote in that. That’s your homework assignment from Campus News.
Have fun this Election Day! Vote!