Voting for the first time

By April Hall
Info Guru,

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If you have never participated in elections, there are a few things to keep in mind in order for you to make your decision with confidence
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Vote with confidence.

With all of the media attention paid to the upcoming national elections, you cannot help but get excited about the possibility of having your voice heard by casting your vote on Election Day. The thrill of walking into the polling place, going behind the curtain, and making your choice is hard to replicate anywhere else. Unless you choose to tell them, no one ever has to know for whom you voted or why. If you have never participated in elections, there are a few things to keep in mind as you begin voting for the first time:


Pay attention to the election coverage


In the months leading up to the election, usually you can get good information about how the candidates stand on the issues that matter to you by watching the news and reading newspapers and online news sources. If you are like most people, you want to make an informed decision about your choices, so take the time to find out as much as you can about each candidate. Do a little bit of research on your own, rather than simply listening to your friends and family talk about the candidates and their views—not all of the information you hear may actually be correct. When you find out the truth about the candidates, you may actually be surprised.


Don't wait until a national election to vote


Participate in local and state elections as well: Although it is very exciting to be a part of national elections for the President of the United States—and very important—don't miss out on the opportunity to have a voice in your local and state governments. Often these positions have a very real impact on you, your community, and your bank account, so be sure to head to the polls for these elections. Many times the winner of state and especially local elections will achieve a majority by a relatively small margin, so every vote indeed counts.

You may not be entirely certain what a constable or county clerk does; but you are sure to have an opinion about the candidates running for such offices once you get to know them. Participating in these local elections is also a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with your polling place and your county election board if you are voting for the first time.


Avoid voting straight ticket


Unless you have extremely strong feelings about a particular party's platform, try to refrain from voting straight ticket: Besides the fact that it is simply no fun to walk into a booth and just make a single mark (or button click), most voters want to put some thought into each candidate they are voting for on Election Day. Even if you are a registered member of a political party, it is unlikely that you feel strongly positive about each individual candidate in that party.

Perhaps you will end up voting for one party's candidate for each elected office, but it is usually better to choose them individually rather than to vote straight ticket. This is especially true if you are voting for the first time—you want to make the experience as memorable as possible, so spend some time deciding on each position.


It is fantastic that you are choosing to participate in American democracy by casting your very first vote. Be sure always to keep that fervor when you head to the polls on this Election Day and on every Election Day in the future. There are many cynical people out there who will tell you that no individual vote counts, so why bother voting at all? Shake their negative feelings off as you stand in line along with other responsible citizens at the polls, ready to let your voice be heard when we decide who will run our government along with us.

There is almost nothing more satisfying than walking away from the ballot box, wearing your "I Voted!" sticker, and feeling confident that you have made the most informed choice possible.

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