During this election season, I’ve realized how little practical knowledge of voting first time and young voters have. So I decided to look around the web and see what resources I could find and came across Campus Vote, which provides information on dates, registering, and requirements to vote for each state. Headcount has a great list of sites that provide information on who’s running, their platforms and other info for voters here, and here’s a general overview of voting in federal elections from the government itself.

Other things that have popped up are questions about voter fraud and intimidation. The Washington Post has an good overview of what is and isn’t vote rigging in the article: “Is this vote rigging?”.

Finally, since I wasn’t able to find a good overview, here are questions I’ve been asked by first time voters that aren’t covered above: 

  1. Do I have to vote for the same party down ticket?

Nope. While some states (like Texas) will present you with the option to mark your whole ballot Democrat or Republican (straight ticket voting), you can vote for candidates of different parties. This is called split ticket voting and used to be much more common. 

  1. Do I have to vote for a candidate in every single election listed on my ballot? 

Nope, you can leave blanks. You can only vote for president, or vote for everyone but president. Although local elections are really, really, really important, so you should go back up to those links above and learn about them.

  1. What if I see voter fraud or someone intimidating voters? Or what if I’m denied the ability to cast a ballot?

Check with your State’s Secretary of State’s Webpage. They will have contact info, and most will also tell you when and how you can cast a provisional ballot if something is problematic with your registration info. For example, Louisiana’s is here.  Many of these sites will also have pages detailing what poll watchers are allowed to do.

There are also several civic groups that provide help for those who feel that they are being denied the right to vote, hassled, or intimidated at the polls.

866-OUR-VOTE (For a complete schedule and more information, click here)

For English/Spanish speakers, get help in either language through National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) 1-888-839-8682 (1-888-VE-Y-VOTA)

For English/Arabic assistance, get help through the Arab American Institute’s #YallaVote hotline, 844-418-1682

4. What happens if I show up right before the polls close and the line is huge? I just have to go home right?

Nope- if you are in line when the polls close, you get to vote. So if polls close at 8 pm, and you get in line at 7:55, you get to vote- it doesn’t matter how long that line is. If someone tries to stop you, call one of those numbers in 3. And yes, the presidential election might be over by the time you get to vote, but local elections can be decided by a handful of votes.

Any questions I’ve missed?

Picture from brooklyntheborough via flicker under creative commons license

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