What's Your Voting Plan?

By Kassandra Smith

Creating a Voting Plan ahead of time can make Election Day a breeze.

Yesterday, I saw the headline: “With early voting starting Monday…” Yikes! I thought. Where’s my Voting Plan?

I am what some people might call a serial voter. If there’s a municipal or state election, you can bet on me being there. But getting ready to vote is hard! That’s why I make a Voting Plan before each election. You can make your own Voting Plan with a few simple steps.

  1. Do your research and create your voting Cheat Sheet. 
    • Do you know what offices you are voting for? It’s hard to keep track of all the various offices you may see on your ballot – gubernatorial, state house and senate seats, US house and senate seats, school board…it feels like half the time I show up to vote and go “Uh, wait, I didn’t realize there was school board seats up for election…who are these people??”
    • Once you know the offices you are voting for, find out where each candidate stands on the issues that are important to you so you know how to vote.
    • Are there any ballot initiatives you’ll need to vote on? Try and find a version that isn’t written in legal gobbledygook so you can understand what the initiative is trying to do.
    • You can contact your local Division of Elections or early voting location and oftentimes they will have “sample” ballots for you that show you exactly what your ballot will look like on Election Day.
  2. Find out where to go.
    • Now that you have your Cheat Sheet, you need to find out where to vote! Most states let you look up your polling place online, like Alaska. You can also call your state’s Division of Elections for information on your polling place.
    • If you can’t make it to your specific polling place, find out if there is a main polling place where you can vote regardless of your precinct. Most states have a polling place that services all polling districts.
    • Is there early voting or absentee in person voting available? Often you can go in person a few weeks before an election and vote when your schedule permits, especially if you know you’re going to have a busy schedule on Election Day.
  3. Find out how to get there.
    • Do you need to take time off work? If so, request time off now! Can’t take time off and can’t make it before or after work? Look into early voting, absentee in person voting, or absentee by mail voting by contacting your Division of Elections today so you’re ready to go before Election Day comes around.
    • Do you need to arrange child care? Reach out to your babysitter or family now! Though it’s worth considering if your child is old enough, bringing your child voting can be a fun and exciting activity that plants the seeds for future civic engagement. Turn it into something that everyone must do and it will become a routine that they keep when they’re old enough to vote. Plus, cool sticker – who doesn’t want one of those?
    • If you have a vehicle, reach out to your friends and family and see if anyone needs a ride to their polling place. Lyft is offering 50% off rides and free rides to underserved communities that face significant obstacles to transportation. Uber is also offering free rides to all.
    • Do you know someone who wants to vote but can’t make it at all, like your Aunt Mary, who recently has had some health problems? See if you state offers special needs voting. Special needs voting means that an authorized representative (like you) goes to Aunt Mary’s polling place and requests a special needs ballot. The polling place then issues a ballot on Aunt Mary’s behalf in a special envelope. You then take that ballot and envelope to Aunt Mary and she completes the ballot. You then place the ballot in the envelope, seal the envelope, and then return it to any polling place before the polls close.
  4. Most important: now that you have your Voting Plan, don’t forget to vote!

Remember: you do not have to vote for anything! If Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are the only two options for school board and you don’t want to vote for either, just don’t vote on that particular race. Leave those bubbles blank. Some people show up and don’t vote for anything because they just want the record to show they showed up to vote, even if they didn’t like any of the options. Voting is not a test – you don’t have to get 60% or more to pass! Only vote for what you feel comfortable voting.

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