Election Day 2023 is on Nov. 7, and for many college students, it might be their first time voting. When the time comes and you are eligible to vote, some questions may arise: How does the process work? When exactly do you vote (and for what positions)? How can you be sure that you’re making the best and most well-informed decision? Turns out there are lots of resources available to you that can help you as you navigate voting for the first time.
When it comes to elections, people sometimes immediately think of the presidential election. Even though that particular election isn’t for another year, local elections are just as important and for some states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, that are coming up with big issues at stake on the ballot like reproductive rights.
Check out these five resources you can use to be a well-informed voter for the upcoming elections as a college student voting for the first time.
- Vote.gov and USA.gov
The first step into being an informed voter is making sure you are registered to vote. Use the website vote.gov to help you register to vote, find registration deadlines, check your registration, change your registration after you have moved or change your political party affiliation, and learn how to get a voter registration card.
Once you’re registered, check out usa.gov through vote.gov for additional resources that will help you understand how the voting process works and methods to make sure you are making the most-informed decision come Election Day. Through usa.gov, you can learn more about absentee ballots, the different election processes (presidential, midterm, etc.), voter ID requirements, finding your polling place, looking up state and local election offices, voting and election laws, results from past elections, and so much more useful information. These are official websites of the U.S. government because they end in .gov, so you know they’re secure.
- Websites for individual candidates
If applicable, see if any of the candidates that are running for a certain position have a website. This site usually allows you to see their campaign beyond their political party, such as what issues they are specifically looking to focus on and what exactly they want to change or implement if elected. Essentially, a candidate’s website can show you all the reasons you may want to vote for this person and if you support their ideas.
- On-campus resources
If you’re interested in learning more about politics before voting for the first time, look into political science clubs and organizations on your college campus. Some colleges have clubs geared towards a specific political party or specific political issues, as well as clubs for political science major.
A club like the latter might host events or educational forums on how to approach voting for the first time (since it’s a common question among college students) and additional resources for you to get more information.
Another option is to consider reaching out to a political science professor on campus. Since they’re an expert on how our government and political system functions, they may be able to guide you through the process, answer any of your specific questions that you aren’t finding answers to, or provide you with additional resources to help you.
- Candidate debates
For some mayoral elections, your local news station will air debates beforehand with all of the candidates that will appear on the ballot. Occasionally, they also have debates in person that you can attend. Watching a debate is the perfect opportunity to see the people that are running getting asked and answering questions that you may have as a voter. You can see their stance on various topics that are important to you, and gain more information. You can also see how their views differ from their fellow candidates.
- Ballotpedia.com and Ballotready.com
Similarly to usa.gov and vote.gov, Ballotpedia.com and Ballotready.com also provide you with necessary information that will help you as a first time voter. Sure, you may have heard of some of the people that will be appearing on your ballot, but it can be overwhelming when you enter the voting booth and see a bunch of names and positions you’ve never even heard of.
Ballotready prevents this problem from happening by providing you with information about each candidate, such as the position they’re running for, background information like their education and endorsements, and where they stand on issues that might be important to you. To ensure you’re making the right decisions when voting, and not accidentally voting for someone whose proposals don’t match with your values, use Ballotready to familiarize yourself. You can even share the results of your findings with your friends who are also first-time voters.
Similarly, Ballotpedia is the digital encyclopedia for American politics. So if you need information on upcoming elections in your state or election results, information from previous elections, and more, Ballotpedia has you covered. It can also tell you what names you’ll be seeing on your ballot. For both websites, just insert your address and the site will take care of the rest. The convenience of both of these resources are great for first-time voters, especially if you are seeking last-minute research.