Whether you've been following the debates closely or just been laughing at Donald Trump memes, you probably know that 2016 is an important year. However, November isn't the only time you need to go out to the polls. Throughout the spring, each state will have a primary or caucus to choose the final nominees for both the Democratic and Republican parties in the general election. As college freshmen, it's easy to forget that this is going on and that it's important. It's also an exciting time because, for the many of us, this may be the first opportunity we have to vote. Remember, college-aged people make up about 10% of the US population so our votes really are relevant (www.marketingcharts.com).
However, the process can be difficult and unclear. Here are some links and steps to hopefully guide you through this important time.
First, to vote in the primary, you must be registered to vote. This can be done fairly easily online, but you must be a US citizen and meet your states requirements. This can be done online at www.usa.gov.
Next, you need to investigate the situation for you state. Some states have open primaries while others have closed and some have a combination of the two. Essentially, an open primary means that you do not have to be registered with any specific party to vote in the primary. On the other hand, a closed primary means that you must be registered with the party that you are voting in. However, in either situation you can only vote in the primary of ONE party. This can be confusing, but this site explains the terminology in depth: www.fairvote.org.
If it turns out that you need to register with a party, you can do that at the GOP's site: www.register.gop or by registering with the Democratic party in your specific state. This is done on a more state by state basis.
If you will not be able to make it to your polling center the day of your states primary, you need to register for an absentee ballot. This often needs to be done a little while before actually using the absentee ballot. This site has all the information you'll need to register. www.longdistancevoter.org
It's also really important that you know the date that you will vote on. Here's a helpful graphic for each state: www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com
Finally, you need to know more information about a specific candidate (and I really recommend researching all of the candidates fully before voting). Here are the candidates' campaign websites for further info:
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