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Phoenix Forward

5 ways to get ready to vote

Get ready to vote

You want to help pick the leader of the free world, but have you done everything you need to do to make that happen? In the 2008 presidential election, nearly 40 percent of eligible Americans didn’t vote, according to the United States Elections Project.

If you’re counted among those who relinquished their right in the past, here’s everything you need to know to vote in this presidential election:


You must register.

North Dakota is the only state that does not require voter registration, so register even if you are on the fence about voting.

“Give yourself the option,” advises C.J. Mody, JD, a political science instructor in the College of Humanities and Sciences at University of Phoenix. “If the deadline passes and you decide that you do want to vote, then you’re out of luck.”

How do you know if you’re already registered? Check out canivote.org, which has voter registration information for all 50 states.


Educate yourself in advance.

A disturbing number of voters are uninformed about the issues, Mody says. “In some cases, 40 to 50 percent of voters did not have any idea about the nature of the propositions they were voting on.”

Pamphlets with candidate statements and background information on the propositions are usually mailed to all registered voters, so be sure to read through them before you head to the poll. You can also go to votesmart.org and find a summary of the issues on each ballot this year.


Decide if you want to vote by mail.

Absentee voting isn’t just for military personnel or Americans living overseas. “There are just some people who don’t want to go to the voting booth anymore. They don’t have the time,” Mody says.

That said, getting an absentee ballot could take weeks in some states, so decide early, check the deadlines and apply for an absentee ballot by calling or going online to contact your local elections department.


Prepare identification.

Some states have changed their ID requirements for voting. Several recently passed voter identification laws are now being challenged in court, but you’ll still want to check with your local registrar or elections office to find out the ID requirements in your state.


Know where you’re going on Election Day.

Don’t go wandering around the neighborhood looking for American flags and cardboard signs with “Polling Place” or “Vote Here” on them. Instead, plan ahead and check out the website of your local elections office or go to vote411.org. You can usually find your polling place by simply entering your address or ZIP code.

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