If you were not already painfully aware, the United States is in the midst of an election year. And even though you are a citizen of the United States who probably loves their country dearly and wants the best for its future, it can be hard to keep up with all the craziness of a political race like we have going on right now.
At this point, the primaries are almost over and both the Democratic and Republican parties have presumptive nominees. If you are a college student reading this article, this election may be the first time you have ever had the chance to vote in a big election.
Right now, millennial voter turnout is pretty pitiful. And the decisions that are about to be made for our country are probably going to affect our generation more than any other. But, do not worry. With five months until the big Election Day in November, all you really need to do is follow these three steps and you will be well on your way to being a politically responsible individual.
1) Figure out where you stand on major issues.
Okay so we are starting out with the most difficult step here. There are a wide variety of issues facing candidates and voters in the upcoming presidential election including Obamacare, gun control, equal pay, abortion, welfare, immigration and foreign policy. Even if you think you know where you stand on all the major issues, I’d recommend checking out the website isidewith.com. It is a great resource for learning about issues and even features an in-depth quiz that can give you a better understanding of which candidates you relate to the most. The quiz is a good place to start — especially if you have never really paid much attention to politics. It takes about as long as your average BuzzFeed quiz and will probably be infinitely more useful than that quiz you took about which “Friends” character you are.
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2) Keep up with the issues as they’re unfolding
Now that you know a little something about something, it is important that you find a way to stay up to date on how the election and national events as they are unfolding. I swear there are ways to do this painlessly, even if you think news is boring. One easy way is to subscribe to the Skimm. The Skimm provides you with a daily email with quick summaries of major news events. It is written in a clever, easy to understand tone and the subscription is completely free. If you’re big on twitter then commit to following two or three news channels in addition to all of those parody or sports accounts. Finally, sitting down and watching the debates is a really great way to stay up to date on the election. And let’s be honest—with this year’s candidates the debates are bound to be lively.
3) Make sure you are registered to vote
If you’ve gotten your license renewed since you turned 18, (which you should have because its required by law and all) you might have noticed a box on that long form they make you fill out that says “register me to vote.” If you checked that box you are good to go. If you did not check that box or if you have absolutely no idea whether you checked the box, then I would recommend heading over to VOTE.org. It’s a great resource for checking your voter registration status, figuring out how to register online and filling out an absentee ballot if you happen to be an out-of-state student. If you do have to register as an absentee, you have a few more steps but they’re all pretty simple. It only takes about two minutes to fill out your information on the website, and then you’ll get an email with a form attached. Print that form, sign it and mail it to your local voting office. The address for the office even comes printed on the form so all you really have to do is buy some stamps.
And there you have it folks. If you can follow these three steps then congratulations, you are politically responsible! It is easy to forget how lucky we are to live in a country where we have the opportunity to choose who leads us. It is also easy to feel like your vote does not matter. One small vote may not completely alter the course of the election. But the votes and the voice of America’s largest generation — they're probably worth filling out a few forms for.
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