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Doing Your Civic Duty 101: Election Edition

Every day college students are bombarded with information from their classes. No matter if the course is a divisional or the epitome of a specific major, the facts and figures are consistently taught like they’re the most important knowledge in the world. Let’s be real, that’s rarely true; I just don’t see when my know-how about types of rhythm in art is going to be relevant in my future career. Maybe that’s just me. 

What I came to realize though, is no matter the major or career path, there is one subject seldom taught to the general collegiate student body. And this realization surprised me because it is the one topic of utmost importance to every member of society. It’s how to engage in the civic process. 

With the 2020 presidential elections coming up in November and Super Tuesday recently under our belt as of March 3rd, we are beginning to enter a critical political time. Students need to start paying attention so they can cast educated ballots in the upcoming elections. However, the whole process can, understandably, come off as very intimidating and it’s therefore unsurprising when statistics show only 53% of college students voted in the 2016 elections. But this needs to change. So, if you’re among the thousands of college students who are unaware of the important upcoming political dates or how to cast your ballot, don’t be distressed because you just found a crash course. Welcome to Doing Your Civic Duty 101. 

Staying Informed

First and foremost, the most important part about performing your civic duty is staying informed. College creates an isolating bubble that students can retreat into and find themselves completely oblivious to the rest of the world. Seriously, at times I feel like World War III could start and I’d have absolutely no idea. Although it’s hard, we need to break out of this detached mentality and remain aware of what’s happening throughout the world. 

The easiest way to do this is by downloading news apps. After downloading the apps (which are usually free) simply go into their settings and choose the number of notifications you want to receive from the news source each day. Now, anytime a major event happens, a quick synopsis of it will pop up on your home screen. It’s literally that easy; you just need to check your phone. 

A quick side not on the topic is to download news sources that affiliate with all sides of the political spectrum, like CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News. This ensures you receive the most accurate information with arguments from both sides, which allows you to formulate your own opinion. 

Important Political Dates

With all this new information under your belt, it’s time to start taking action. But when? 

March 3rd: Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday is an important voting date when many states hold their primary elections. These elections determine the number of delegates’ votes each candidate for president will receive during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. This year, Super Tuesday was especially important for Democrats since there is currently a Republican in office and President Donald Trump will likely receive the party nomination again. 

The states that participate in Super Tuesday are always changing so it’s key to be aware of whether your state is included in this group. This year, Super Tuesday included key states like California and Texas who have 415 and 228 delegate votes respectively due to their large population sizes. Thus, although a candidate doing well on Super Tuesday does not ensure they will receive their party’s nomination, it is a good indication as often times more than 30% of a party’s delegate votes are determined on this crucial day. 

July 13-16th: Democratic National Convention

This four-day convention is going to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The most important part of the convention is when the Democratic Nominee for president and vice president will be officially announced based upon the primary election results from across the country. The convention will also largely focus on the overall political platform the Democratic party will emphasize in the coming election. 

August 24-27th: Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention is very similar to the Democratic National Convention in that it will be the formal announcement of candidates as well as the voting on priority policies for the next election. This convention is going to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. As previously mentioned, it’s most likely that current President Trump will receive the nomination at this convention as he is just completing his first term and there is little opposition to his campaign in the Republican party. 

November 3rd: Presidential Election

This is the big day. After months of annoying political ads and passionate debates, this is the day when Americans turn out to the polls to cast their vote for the next president of the United States. The candidate elected on this day will become the president-elect until he or she is sworn into office on January 20, 2021. 

How to Be Involved

Vote! The easiest way to be involved in the civic process is by casting your vote. Look at the dates above or find your state-specific election dates and be sure to mark them on your calendar. For nation-wide election days, like November 3rd, ensure you’re aware of the location and times when your specific polling station is open as these differ by state. It only takes 30 minutes of your time to exercise your civic right to vote, a right that many people across the world wish they had. Plus, you get a free sticker; what more incentive do you need?

However, sometimes it’s impossible to go to your assigned voting station, especially when you’re attending college in a different state. This is when absentee ballots come into play. Simply go to, https://www.usa.gov/absentee-voting and fill out your information to request an absentee ballot for the state in which you are registered to vote. The most important thing to note with absentee ballots is when you need to send in the request form. This date differs by state and thus be sure to check the website for your state’s specific information. 

Another way to vote is by registering in the state in which you attend school. If you choose to do this, you can go vote in person at your local polling place. Most schools provide transportation to and from this location on election days, so be sure to ask around or look on the internet for school-specific transportation information. 

Besides the ways discussed above, students can also perform their civic duty by participating in rallies or even assisting in local campaigns. No matter the level at which you choose to partake, be it simply voting or even more direct involvement, give it your all. Nothing in this nation or even the world will change if people ignore their civic responsibilities; so no matter the age group or affiliation, make a difference and cast your vote. 



Abigail Yearout

Wake Forest '23

Abigail Yearout is a freshman health and exercise science major on a pre-med track at Wake Forest University. She is from St. Louis, Missouri but grew up and will always be a Colorado girl at heart. She loves reading, long road trips and is down for ice cream at any time of day. She hopes to attend medical school immediately following college and ultimately become a neurosurgeon. Until then, she's enjoying the best of college and writing for Her Campus in her free time.
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