The List: How to be an educated voter

Categories:  News    Opinions
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 at 12:55 PM
The List: How to be an educated voter by Emily Anderson
Photo: Pexels.com

All elections are noteworthy, no matter if they are local, statewide, or national. But presidential elections feel like they are the most important. This choice will determine the fate of the nation for the next four years, maybe even eight. The election this year feels like it has more riding on it than ever before. No matter what side you fall on — left, right, or in-between — it’s of the utmost importance that all voters be as educated as possible come Nov. 3 to make the best choices possible.

Here’s how you do that.

1. Find your polling location 

Not sure where to go to cast your ballot? Iwillvote.com has a really handy tool to help you figure out your polling location. The COVID-19 pandemic have impacted polling places nationwide. Because of this, where you normally go may not be a viable option anymore. So before going out and casting your vote (or waiting in a long line), make sure you know where to go. If your polling place has changed and you’re not able to get there like you usually would, especially if it's further away, the ride share company Lyft is offering discounted rides to polling locations on election day.

2. Get to know the candidates 

This is the most important thing for any election. Knowing the candidates and what they stand for will influence how you vote. Make sure you’re looking beyond sensationalized headlines and flashy social media posts. For tips on verifying your news, read our previous edition of “The List.” 

Debates may not be your scene, but there’s a lot of crucial information that comes from them that is super important to know. If you don’t want to tune into the debate, consider reading a recap from a credible new source the next day. Or you can watch highlights to get the broad strokes of what you missed. There are so many news sources that compare candidates’ policies on big ticket issues. Reading a reputable, non-biased site is a really good place to start.

If you're not sure what you’re supposed to be looking for when deciding on a candidate to back, smartvoter.org has a good list on how to judge a candidate, breaking it down into seven in-depth steps to help voters make the best choices. Not sure where each candidate stands on particular issues? That’s fine! There’s so much information to keep track of, it might be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. These two sites have lists of current issues and what each candidate’s stance on them is.  

3. Make a voting plan 

This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, voting is not as easy as it usually is. There may be limited polling places in some areas, and due to crowds, at-risk people may not feel comfortable going out and voting. This is the perfect time to request a mail-in ballot. Voters need to make the best choices for them. If that means they cannot go in person, that’s fine! 

However, Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot this year is a little confusing. The “naked ballot” the state is using for mail-in voting is a two-envelope system that is giving some voters a hard time. PA.gov has a step-by-step guide on how to use the naked ballot the right way, assuring your vote is counted. Any mail-in ballots not done correctly will not be counted. In addition, the Oct. 27 deadline to submit your application for a mail-in ballot is incoming. For voting, your mail-in ballot “must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on election day and received by your county election office by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 6 to be counted.”

Note: With the amount of mail-in ballots being sent, it's also being recommended that you drop off your ballot, in person, at an election office. For Erie County, eriecountypa.gov states: "If you haven’t mailed your ballot, consider using the 24/7 drop box in front of the Erie County Courthouse. It is located on 140 West 6th Street in Erie, PA. Make sure to return your ballot no later than November 3 (Election Day)."

4. Prepare for in-person voting 

In-person polling places have been limited in some places because of the pandemic. Due to this, some places are seeing polling lines that take over an hour to get through. If you are voting in person, you may want to be prepared for this. This is less than ideal, but if voters are aware they may be facing longer wait times than usual, they can plan accordingly (check the weather, make sure you’re dressed properly). Maybe go along with some friends and play a fun game of I-spy while waiting in line to do your civic duty. And please make sure to wear a mask and social distance to protect those around you.

This election is really important. Many young people eligible to vote this year have never done so before. It is crucial to make sure you’re well educated, no matter who you decide to support.

Young people aren’t the only ones who need to know what’s going on though. Every single voter needs to be as informed as possible in order to make an educated vote this November. These steps are a really good way to make sure you achieve that.

Emily Anderson is the Voices Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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