How to Become an Informed Voter
By: Courtney Boone
In less than seven weeks, Americans will flock to the polls to hopefully make a choice on who should be our next Commander in Chief. This guide will help you become an educated voter and make an informed decision in an election that will likely change the path for all generations that follow us.
1. Know How to Get Registered: You know those people with clipboards who stand around every day asking if you’re registered to vote? They are there to help you. If you registered to vote on campus, your polling station is going to be in Merten Hall (adjacent to Rappahannock parking deck). If you live off campus, find your polling station at vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation. You MUST bring a government-issued photo ID to vote on November 8th from 6am-7pm.
2. More Is At Stake Than The Presidency: When you go to the polls, you’ll be voting on a variety of candidates and issues. In Virginia, many precincts will have congressional representatives up for re-election. Be sure to research if you support the current incumbent or politician so you can make an informed decision. You may also have the opportunity to vote on policy referendums or state legislature amendments about unions, taxes, or budget allocation.
3. Learn How to Recognize Biased Sources: When researching the candidates and their positions, it’s essential to realize that major news media organizations may lean left or right ideologically. This means that the stories they broadcast or publish can be biased or favor a specific politician or issue. For example, NPR and BBC are known for being fair in their stories. Fox News is notoriously conservative, but The Washington Post and CBS are viewed by some as more liberal and generally endorse Democratic candidates. Take everything you read with a grain of salt, and research your sources to find out if there are any conflicts of interest. Building a holistic picture on the issues and where you stand will make you a better informed voter.
4. There Are More Than Two Options: Ever heard of Gary Johnson or Jill Stein? Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is typically liberal on domestic issues and conservative on foreign relations. He prefers to avoid intervention and believes our biggest homeland security threat is North Korea. Johnson also disagrees with mandatory vaccinations for school-aged children. Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate and leans quite liberal. She is a strong advocate for civil and women’s rights. Many of her proposed policies focus on helping the environment and reducing global warming. She is also open to taking Syrian refugees. Both candidates have missed the required poll numbers to appear in the first debate, but they have made it onto the November ballot in nearly every state. If you’re still on the fence about who you support, try taking this quiz to see which candidate you most align with: www.isidewith.com/political-quiz.
5. Know That Your Vote Truly Does Count: First, know that we do not directly elect the president. We vote to elect delegates to the electoral college to represent us. We live in a highly populated area that has the power to sway which way Virginia goes in the electoral college. In the 2012 election, Prince William County was the deciding factor for Virginia by a margin of just a few thousand votes. The swing-state of Virginia has been blue in recent years, but historically we have been red. This means that the votes you and your friends and family cast could be part of the momentum that swings the Commonwealth to one candidate or the other.
On November 8th, find your polling place and let your voice be heard. This election has the most at stake in American history. No matter who you vote for, casting your ballot means you’re a part of that history.