Being a Proactive Young Voter in 2012

By: Lindsay Cogdill

I’ve been following the Republican primaries (as I write, only Iowa and New Hampshire have voted) for the last few weeks and thinking about something interesting: I don’t think I know anyone my age who votes in primaries. Everyone I know has strong political opinions, but few actually get involved in elections.

In 2008, more young people than ever before got involved in the election process. This was largely due to the inspiring rhetoric of our current president and the sharp divides between the Republican and Democratic platforms. But I believe people in my age group often hold back from getting politically involved because they don’t know how, are apathetic, are cynical about politics in general, or they believe their votes don’t count.

The election of 2008 proved the power of our generation to make our voices heard. This year is also an election year, and I hope that we can muster up enough courage and good sense to do so again! The advice I’m giving is largely applicable to any young person, regardless of your political affiliation.

First: know the candidates. Many people, not just those in the younger age group, make the mistake of building their ideas of the candidates on nothing more than sound bytes. If you find yourself listening to a news broadcast and thinking, “I didn’t know Mitt Romney was from Massachusetts,” or “Who the heck is Jon Huntsman?”, you should do some research.  Look up a list of everyone who’s running and then Google them to find out where they’re from, what they’ve done before, and where they stand on all of the current issues.

Second: identify your own most important issues. Many people get confused in primary races about the candidates’ positions on issues. Make it easier on yourself – identify three or four top issues hat are most important to you, and go from there.  There are a million fine distinctions within those things, but it’s a starting point, not a basis for my decision. After you identify the candidates who qualify for your vote based on your top three, you can take a closer look at their broader platforms and figure out which one fits your position most closely.

Third: register to vote, and do it!  Here I will confess a secret – I didn’t actually vote in the 2008 election. By the time I looked up how to get an absentee ballot for my home state (Georgia), it was too late to send it in. At that point I didn’t know that you had to send in absentee ballots early. Now I know that – and I’m sharing with you, so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!

Fourth: Make sure you’re registered to vote in your state. Don’t try to do this the month before elections! When you register, you can choose if you want to be a registered Democrat, Republican, or Independent. If you register for a party, you can vote in the primaries. Look up how to register in your state – I registered through the DMV when I got my license. Then make sure you know where your voting center is, and how to vote via absentee ballot if necessary.

This advice is not meant to be all-inclusive, but I hope it will help some of you make the decision to get involved in the presidential election this year.

 

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