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Registering and Preparing to Vote
Registering to vote means signing up to become a legal voter. Preparing to vote involves educating yoursel about the candidates and issues on the ballot. Both areessential responsibilities o citizens in a democracy.
Why should you vote?
I you were the member o a team, you would respectyour teammates by warming up or a big game. Votingalso requires preparation, but with bigger stakes.You are making decisions that will aect your ellowcitizens, your community, and your country.
How do you register to vote?
Registering to vote is simple. I you are 18, you can doso now. I you are not yet 18, you can get everythingready to submit near your 18th birthday.
1 Find out your state’s voting requirements.
I youare a U.S. citizen and will be 18 by Election Day,you are eligible to register to vote. Beyond that,every state has slightly dierent residency require-ments and registration procedures. For example,some states require you to register at least a monthbeore the next election. Others will allow you toregister at the polling place on Election Day.Contact your Division o Elections by telephone oronline or details on how to register in your state.
2 Complete and submit a voter registration orm.
Get a voter registration orm rom your county election board or download one rom a Web site likerockthevote.com. It will ask or basic inormationincluding your age, name, address, and social security number. I you want to vote in primary elections, youmust register as a member o a specic political party.However, you can change your party af liation asyou wish. Submit your orm to the address indicatedat least a month beore the next election. I insteadyou plan to register on Election Day, bring a com-pleted registration orm and any required identi-cation with you to your polling place.
3 Keep your registration current.
Once you are aregistered voter, keep your registration current by voting. I you move, you will probably need to registeragain at your new address. I you leave home to attendcollege, you will still be able to vote in your homedistrict by mail by asking or an absentee ballot.
How can you prepare to vote intelligently?
Registering to vote is the easy part. Preparing to castyour vote intelligently takes more work. But it is alsoessential to the health o our democracy. As PresidentJohn F. Kennedy once warned, “Te ignorance o one voter in a democracy impairs the security o all.”
1 Learn all you can about the candidates.
Most candi-dates are eager to communicate with you. Read theirads and brochures. Attend candidate orums and cam-paign events. Read about candidates’ backgrounds,community involvement, and policy positions on theirWeb sites. Pay attention to who contributes to theircampaigns and which interest groups endorse them.
2 Study the ballot measures.
In some states, the Divi-sion o Elections has lots o inormation about ballotmeasures. In others, look to sources like those listed inthe ollowing task sheet or inormation. Newspapersand newscasts are other good sources o inormationabout ballot measures. Study this material to nd outwho sponsored each measure, which groups supportit, who will pay or it, and how much it will cost.
3 Obtain and fll out a sample ballot.
In most statesyou will receive a sample ballot in the mail beoreElection Day. Fill it out and bring it with you to thepolling place. Tis will make voting aster and easier.
Find out where to vote.
You should receive inor-mation beore Election Day telling you where to vote. I not, call your local voting commission. Somestates require voters to identiy themselves with apicture ID at the polling place. I your state is one o them, be sure to arrive with the proper identication.
Excerpted from TCI's Doing Democracy Toolkitwww.teachtci.com800-497-6138