Making the Most of Your Vote This Year
Our military men and women work hard to protect our rights and defend our country. They sacrifice time with their families, their comfort and safety and in some cases even their lives to make sure that we have the freedoms our constitution promises. With the upcoming election, we have the opportunity to put one of these freedoms to use: the right to vote.
Going to the polls, casting our ballot, and letting our voice be heard ensures that we have a say in how our country is run. Sadly this important opportunity is often neglected by members of the military, their spouses, and even the general public. In the 2008 election less than 50% of California residents over the voting age registered and placed a vote for president and only 26% of Texas voters placed a vote for their U.S. representatives. Make your voice heard this election with these tips for getting the most from your vote:
TIP #1: You Can’t Vote if You Don’t Register
Heading to the polls on Election Day is important, but if you don’t plan ahead, you may not have the opportunity. Most states require you to register to vote several weeks (or days) before the election. The requirements vary by state, so you’ll have to check with yours to know when you must register. Military members and their families can get help registering to vote from the Federal Voting Assistance Program, an organization with the sole purpose of helping the military vote. They can also help you file for your absentee ballot if you live outside of your legal state of residence.
Tip #2: Be Informed About the Issues
If you don’t understand the issues, it can be difficult to place a vote. Study up on the various bills (especially those related to the military) and candidates so you can make an informed choice. You wouldn’t take out military payday loans without reading the fine print, so don’t vote for an issue before you understand the potential ramifications. Project Vote Smart outlines each initiative by state and category to help you understand what you are voting on. If you missed the presidential debates, you can read a transcript courtesy of the American Presidency Project.
Tip #3: Meet the Necessary Voting Deadlines
If you’re voting absentee it is important to carefully observe the deadlines to ensure your vote is counted. Many states require the ballot be received by the close of polls on Election Day. If you’re serving overseas this may mean that your ballot will need to be sent in several days or even weeks before the election. Stay on top of deadlines and make sure that your ballot is turned in on time.
If you are voting in person you’ll go to your assigned polling place on Election Day. You can typically find the address of the location on your voter booklets. Churches and schools are common locations. Some states require you to show ID before you vote; take yours along just in case. It is also a good idea to take your completed voting packet. This will help you to remember your stand on each of the issues. You can take notes into the voting booth with you to help you remember how you intend to vote.
Election Day is fast approaching; make sure you get out and vote. One person’s voice might not seem like much, but when combined with the opinions of the other voters, it really does make a difference. Our military fights for our rights and taking advantage of the right to vote ensures that their fight is worth the sacrifice.
Why do you think voting is important? Do you prefer to vote absentee or in person?