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5 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About Voting

As another very controversial election approaches, it is more important than ever to make sure your voice is taken into account. Women earned their right to vote exactly 100 years ago in 1920, and it’s an incredible privilege to live in a country where you can take part in electing your own leaders. We don’t want you to miss out on that chance, so read on for some fun facts you may not have known about your fundamental right to vote!

1. Millennials represent more than 25% of the age-eligible electorate in the United States. 

The Census Bureau projects that this 25% will steadily rise to nearly 37% by this year, meaning that young voters will have the ability to impact polling numbers — if we’re mindful about it. The millennial vote is one of the most important voting blocs in this election, because that’s the generation that will be primarily affected by the decision. We need be aware that we’re going to have this new president for the next four to eight years, and the repercussions of this presidency in the form of policy, could affect current students for many years after that.

As the youngest voters, we need to consider issues such as what health care systems we want in place for us and our children, how we want our government to handle the growing environmental crisis, how new leadership can make the economy work better for us, and what we want education to look like in the future. Millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation in the United States, but in 2012, millennials made up only 19% of the electorate—a mere half of the baby boomer voter turnout, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. It’s helpful to know that our numbers are improving but there’s always more work to be done. Millennials need to take advantage of their rank as the largest voting demographic, making sure that to prove wrong the people who say we’re the least likely generation to vote.

2. You can get paid time off to vote. 

Did you know that in over 20 states, some employees scheduled to work on November 3 are guaranteed to receive paid time off to vote? Yes, voting is so important that in some cases your employer has to let you leave work early or come in late to do it. This is especially great because it means you can potentially visit the polls at a time when there won’t be a massive line—such as at the very end of the day, when you risk not making it before the polls close. Check out the work place fairness website to see if your state provides paid time off or unpaid time off to vote.

3. You can vote from your bed. 

With so many technological advances, you really can’t use laziness as an excuse not to vote. With the use of an absentee ballot, you can vote early by mail. This means you don’t have to go outside, wait on lines, or feel the pressure of pressing the button in the poll booth. In 2016, 24% of votes were sent in by-mail absentee voting while 17% of in-person voting was done prior to election day. An absentee ballot is a common option for college students who will not be near their polling location on the first Tuesday in November. 

If you are eligible to vote but don’t think you can make it to the polls in person, you can request an absentee ballot from your state in some cases. They mail you a paper ballot, you take your time filling it out from the comfort of your own home, and you put the completed ballot back in the mail before election day. Make sure you check your state’s rules—some have deadlines for when the ballot is postmarked or received. 

4. Voting for president is important, but voting local is where the magic really happens.

Interestingly enough, the “big vote” on Nov. 3 isn’t the only decision you can make. In fact, many of the issues you have an opinion about are probably decided by state and local officials, not just federal leaders. For example, making a change in education near you can be impacted by electing certain people to the state senate or the local school board. On the other hand, major economic and foreign policy issues operate on a federal level, so your presidential vote would make more of a difference there. Get informed about what exactly you could be deciding in November and cast your vote up and down the ballot!

5. You have rights as a voter.

It is important to know what you’re getting yourself into when you enter the poll booth. Like many college students, this may be your first election. We want to make sure you know exactly what to expect when you head off to cast your vote. For example, if you get in line before the polls close, you cannot be turned away—you will still be able to cast your vote (this is good to know if you’re in a state that doesn’t require paid time off for voting). Also, if you’re registered but your name is not on the list, you can still vote, you will simply vote using a provisional ballot. You can also be super sneaky by casting a secret ballot so no one bothers you while you’re voting. Know your rights, voters.

Remember, millennials (and even Gen Z) like us can change the conversation and control our future, and we have the right and responsibility to do so. Organizations like the Alliance for Youth Action want to help you register and vote in whatever way is most convenient for you. Make sure to check out all the information packed into thisa article in order to take those polls by storm in November!