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Start exercising your rights

by Abby Anderson

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photo creds: newint.org

While your New Year’s resolution to start exercising may have fallen through, one exercise you can stay committed to is exercising your right to vote.

As a U.S. citizen, it is one’s right and obligation to vote – a right that begins at the age of 18. However, this exercise can often seem intimidating. In fact, out of all eligible voters, only about 57 percent actually vote. For an 18 year old, voting may seem like an overwhelming task that you aren’t prepared for but, with the right guidance, it can be really simple. The most important thing to know is where to get your information.

For many new voters, the problem is that they don’t know how to get informed about candidates. This can lead to misguided voting or dissuade someone from voting altogether. If you know where to look, learning about candidates is easy.

“In my opinion, the best way to get informed about a candidate’s position on issues is to watch every debate,” said U.S. History Teacher Tonya Grant. “I also read an online source called OnTheIssues.org.”

This website is a reliable, nonpartisan source that gives information on all the candidates and is an easy way to find out whose views line up with your own. It is important to remember however that not all sources of information are trustworthy. Many biased messages get put out there on television and social media that are used to influence the vote of the uneducated voter. In order to not fall prey to these gimmicks, some sources to stay away from include social media, all political commercials, and very conservative or liberal news websites.

Once you know your facts, the first step to becoming a voter is to get registered. One can register by contacting the State Board of Elections, going online, or filling out a Voter Registration card and mailing it to the local county clerk at least 29 days prior to the election.

“I know several people that registered by completing a Voter Registration card in my U.S. History class,” said Senior Emily Johnson. “It seemed really simple and Ms. Grant always keeps cards in her room.”

An essential part of registering is deciding what political party you will affiliate with. It is important that a lot of thought go into this decision because it will determine who you will be able to vote for in primary elections. Therefore, prior research should be done before making this decision as well. You can change your political party affiliation at any time if you feel your political views have changed simply by registering again.

After you have learned about the candidates, registered, and chosen the political party you will affiliate with, you are set to vote. Whether you may think so or not, your vote does matter and is an essential part of democracy.

“It is important for 18 year olds to vote,” said Grant. “The right to vote is a basic freedom that men and women have given their lives for. It’s important that we don’t take this right for granted.”

So, don’t just sit there. Get up and exercise … your right to vote!

 

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