First Time Voter? Here's What You Need to Know

·6 min read

The 2022 midterm elections are just around the corner, and their importance cannot be emphasized enough. Everything from the future of our planet to reproductive rights hangs in the balance, so you're going to want to make sure your voice is heard. Whether this is your first time voting in an election or you're a seasoned pro, the specifics on how to vote can be confusing. Because of that, it's so crucial that you make a voting plan and cast your ballot on or before Election Day 2022, which falls on Tuesday, November 8. To make your voting experience as seamless as possible, check out what you need to know as a first time voter below, including how to register to vote, how to vote, and everything in between. Consider this your step-by-step guide for how to vote.

Register to Vote

In order to vote, not only do you need to be a US citizen of least 18 years of age, but you also need to be registered. The first step in this process is deciding where you want to register to vote. Your vote will get counted in whatever state you register in and, most likely, you will register in your home state.

If you are currently not living in your home state, say for college, you can still register there and get an absentee ballot to send in by mail. You may have the option to register in the state where you're currently going to college. According to Rock the Vote, you have the right to register at your school address, including a dorm room. Meaning, if you're from Connecticut, but you're currently living and attending college in Illinois, you may be able to register in Illinois. Just be sure to check the registration rules for the state you attend college in beforehand.

However, you can only vote in one state, so you need to decide where you want your vote to count.

Once you know the state you're registering in, make sure you are aware of any registration cut-off dates, which vary by state. For example, in New York, you have to register in-person, online, or by mail by October 14 in order to vote. Don't worry, though, because there are a ton of online resources, like Rock the Vote, that can answer all of your state-specific registration questions.

Next, look into how you can register. Some states make you do it by mail, while some will allow you to do it online. You can also head to your DMV and do it there (unless you live in Wyoming — they're the one exception). Make sure you find out your state's registration requirements so you know you're following guidelines. Tip: if you're planning to register by mail, do it now! You want to make sure you have ample time to get everything in before any deadlines. Some states have an earlier cut-off for mail registration than online or in-person. For instance, in Colorado, you can register in-person up until Election Day (November 8) but your by-mail registration must be postmarked by October 31.

Get Informed About the Issues

This one is important. Yes, maybe you've heard your parents talk politics or your friends share their opinions on the issues, and you should definitely hear what they have to say. Still, it's important to form your own opinion so that you can be an informed voter when you cast your ballot. You can read the news and see what people are saying online, but in order to get an unbiased view, we suggest heading over to the candidates in your states' websites. Many of them will lay out their stances on important issues so you can do your own research.

In the midterms, we don't vote for the President. Instead, we're voting for elected officials on the state and local level. This means you could be voting for positions such as your state's governor or attorney general. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and about one third of the 100 Senate seats are also contested.

The House of Representatives and the Senate, which make up the U.S. Congress, are instrumental in the decision-making of this country, and have a major impact on which laws and policies make it to the President's desk. These upcoming midterms will determine which political party — Democrats or Republicans — will have majority in the House and in the Senate. This means that the party in power will be able to make impactful decisions on some of the biggest issues being debated right now, such as reproductive rights and gun violence prevention.

Make a Voting Plan

OK, so you're registered and you know who you're voting for. What's next? Get your voting plan squared away. Make sure you know the location of your polling place ahead of time. You can check out Vote.org to help you find the location of your local polling place.

As an important reminder, some states require you to bring identification when you go to vote. So make sure you know what you have to bring with you the day of — such as a photo ID like your driver's license or your passport, or a non-photo ID like a bank statement or utility bill with your address on it.

Also, give yourself a good amount of time to vote. COVID precautions and social distancing requirements might still be in effect, so lines could be a little longer at your voting site on Election Day. Be prepared to wait. It's worth it.

Voting by mail? Make sure you get your absentee ballot squared away way ahead of time. We're talking as soon as possible! You'll have to request an absentee ballot from your state, so, again, make sure you note the deadlines associated with that, because they often fall before Election Day. You can request an absentee ballot here on Vote.org and check all state deadlines here.

Get Involved

Feeling completely prepared for Election Day? Congrats! Encourage your friends to get registered and make a voting plan as well.

There are also opportunities to get involved in the election process. In 2020, our country experienced a shortage of poll workers, according to Power the Polls. Now, in 2022, the organization reports that we're already seeing the need for more people to step up and help. You can assist your local polling site this November 8 by signing up to be a poll worker, receive poll worker training, and depending on where you reside, you could get paid.

REGISTER TO VOTE HERE!!

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