Explainer: The Voting Process

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Many young adults – 18-29 years old – don’t exercise their right to vote. For some, politics is too confusing and too difficult to understand. This lack of knowledge or confusion can contribute to the low voter turnout among young adults. According to NPR, “Back in 2010, …fewer than a quarter of voters ages 18 to 29 showed up at the polls. This [2014] year it’s looking even worse: 23 percent of voters under 30 are expected to vote…” PBS reports that in 2014, only 36.4 percent of people eligible to vote, actually voted. However, voter turnout in 2018 was different. Instead of the voter turnout getting lower, it went up. According to Vox, 49.3 percent of voters cast ballots in the 2018 election, which was the highest percentage of voter turnouts since 1914!

If you’re a young adult voter who is new to the voting process, read on. I’ll help prepare you for election year 2020 by explaining the voting process, how to register to vote, what to do at the polls, what you should do if you can’t come to the polls, and what happens to your votes after everyone has voted. My hope is that this will clear up any confusion and make it easier for you to vote.

How to Register to Vote

Let’s start at the very beginning of the process: registering to vote. Where you register depends on what state you’re from. You can find the rules of your state by visiting Ballotpedia. Within each state, there are many different local places where you can register. Some states even allow people to register online.

According to USA.gov here are some places you can go to register to vote:

  • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  • Centers for armed forces recruitment or any office in your state or county that gives aid (such as food stamps) to those in need.
  • Depending on a voter’s situation there are places to accommodate different types of people. For example, there are places and programs for people in the military to register. There are also places that accommodate people who speak different languages, have disabilities, and more.

After you register, you will receive a voter registration card, and then you should be ready to vote. If you want more information on voter registration, search for “voter registration” and the state where you live. You can also visit Vote411.org

How to Find Your Polling Place

Once you’ve registered, you go to a polling place near you to cast your votes. To find a polling place near you, search online at gettothepolls.org, or ask neighbors who have voted before in your area where they go to vote. It could be anywhere from a local fire company to a community center.

How to Vote by Absentee Ballot

If you are unable to make it to the polling place, you may be able to vote via absentee ballot. An absentee ballot is a form that is mailed to your location, you fill it out with the information regarding who you want to vote for and mail it back before a certain deadline. Acceptable reasons to vote by absentee ballot vary by state. You can checkout the rules about voting this way. Pennsylvania is one of the states where you’re allowed to vote with an absentee ballot. In this state you have to have a specific reason why you are unable to vote at a polling place. On the website for the Pennsylvania Department of State, it lists some of the acceptable reasons. They include, serving in the military, having a sickness or disability, observing a religious holiday, and many more.

Now that you know several of the steps in the voting process, such as registration and voting, you can become a youth voter! I hope to see you at the polls in the next election exercising your right to vote!

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

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Youth Voters Unite is a transmedia storytelling project produced by senior Communication majors at Cabrini University. Students in Senior Convergence: Media for Social Justice are reporting this academic year on the voting process and voting justice topics. Their goal is to educate youth voters on the importance of engaging in the political process and claiming their right to shape their own future. 


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