The how to of the American right: Voting is easier than you think

It’s 2012. To people under 18, it’s just another year, but to those who are legally adults, it’s a life-changing one — one that happens every four years. We’re voting for our next president this November (I know it feels like Obama just took office). For those of you who didn’t vote in the last election, the thought of voting may make you uneasy, so here’s how to make it to the polls ready to vote.

Registration: This is the first step to ensuring you can fill out a ballot this year. Technology has made it an easy process.

Timothy Dixon, associate professor in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences and coordinator of History and Politics, said election rules vary from state to state, so someone coming from out of state needs to know Florida’s rules. In Florida, you have to register at least 29 days before an election, which means those of you who are not registered yet cannot vote in the Jan. 31 primary.

Dixon said there are three ways to register: online at www.browardsoe.org, in person or by telephone at 954-357-7050.

“Registering online is dead easy and totally self-explanatory,” said Dixon. “It is the easiest way for our students. If you register by telephone, you get the application sent to you. If you want to register in person, there are a number of sites which will have the application. You can either mail it back or deliver it to the Broward County Governmental Center.”

Once registered, your voter registration card will be sent to you in two to three weeks. Your card will have all the information you need to know about voting in your county, like the location of your polling place, your precinct number and your congressional district.

Before you vote: The second step in voting is deciding who to support and what propositions to  support.

Dixon said, “Be an educated voter. Be educated about the issues and about the individuals. There are all sorts of websites, like non-partisan ones, that will provide information. Read and understand. You’ll get a sample ballot of constitutional propositions, so understand them before you vote.”

A sample ballot is sent out to every registered voter prior to the elections, and it lists all the people running for office, their party affiliation, state or county propositions and state constitutional amendment proposals.

Dixon said the sample ballot is a very handy tool because you can match the representatives and the races you should pay attention to with your voter registration card.

“You can say these are the things, people, and propositions I need to look at and educate myself about. You can mark on your sample ballot who you want to vote for. I do that so when I vote, I can do it very quickly,” he said.

Election day: This is the third and most crucial step of the process because you are now practicing your right as an American citizen.

First, Dixon said, you need to take your voter registration card, a picture ID with a signature and your sample ballot (if you choose) to the polling location.

When you arrive at the voting area, poll workers will tell you what precinct you’re in, so make sure it agrees with your voter registration card. Dixon said the picture ID with signature can be a Florida driver’s license, a Florida ID card, a passport, a military ID, a student ID or a debit or credit card with a picture and signature.

If you are unable to make it to the polling location on the day of voting, you have two options: absentee and early voting. For the Florida primary, early voting is Jan. 21 – Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. There are 15 different places for early voting, which can be found at www.browardsoe.org.

Dixon said the purpose of early voting is for people who will be out of town or unable to make it to the polling location, for those who did not receive an absentee ballot, and for those who don’t want to brave the crowded polls on Election Day.

“Election Day is a Tuesday. With early voting, you’ve got eight days and two Saturdays to vote. It makes a big difference for people and gives the opportunity for more people to take part in the elections,” he said.

An absentee ballot is another way to vote without going to the polls on Election Day. You can request one in person, by mail, over the telephone or online. Dixon said, originally, absentee ballots were for those serving in the military, but now they have been made available to everyone to increase participation in the elections.

“The earlier you make the request the better off you are. The request needs to be received at least six days prior to the day of the election,” he said. Dixon’s last piece of advice is to not vote out of ignorance. He believes voting and sitting on a jury are two of our greatest citizen duties. “My attitude has always been if you don’t vote, how can you sit there and complain about how things are done? This is your chance to alter and change the people in office, and change what you’re complaining about. Vote wisely. Be educated. You don’t have to know everything about every issue, but know what you can about the issues you’re voting on,” he said. Dixon said, the 2000 election with George Bush and Al Gore was decided by less people than the NSU undergraduate population. Your vote does count. See you at the polls.

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