Home is Where Your Story Begins

October 27, 2010

Voting 101

Filed under: Life — my3daughters @ 5:44 pm

Hello Class.  Welcome to Voting 101.  I’m Ms. Dawn and I will be your instructor in this class.  I will be telling you Who to vote for, What to vote for, When to vote, Where to vote, Why to vote and How to vote.

Let’s start with an easy one, shall we:  When should you vote? The next election is on Tuesday, November 2, 2010.  Poll hours vary by location so please check with your local authorities as to the time.

Which leads us to the next topic:  Where should you vote? Locate your voter registration card.  Here in Michigan, you no longer need to present this card to vote, but it will give you the polling location you are to report to as well as information on the various districts in which you reside so you will know which candidates are the ones you should be considering.  Make sure you have a current card since this information may change.  Macomb County just did some redistricting in 2010.  When this happens, a new card is issued.

Sample Voter Registration Card

If this is your first time voting, you may be wondering:  How do I vote? This answer will vary depending on where you live.  I believe most if not all polling locations have staff in place to answer any questions you may have about voting.  They will not tell you who to vote for but they will tell you how to cast your vote.

Here’s a few things to know if you are voting in Macomb County, Michigan.  These may apply to other locations as well and discussion on this is welcome at the end of class.  When you arrive at the polling location you will be approached by lots of people asking you to vote for their candidate and handing you everything from flyers to pens to candy.  I even got a carnation once.  You can smile, take their stuff and then use it or dump it.  Or you can choose to do your best to avoid eye contact and get inside the building quickly.  They have to stay a certain distance from the entrance.  Please note that if you do take any of these items, they must be out of sight once you are in the building.  There’s usually a trashcan inside the door or put them in your pocket or purse.  Locate the room where the voting is taking place and have your driver’s license ready.  They will walk you through the rest.  Smile and be pleasant to the poll workers even if you have to wait in line.  Many are volunteers.

I’m sure many of you are asking:  Why should I vote? The answer is quite simple.  It is your responsibility as a citizen of the United States to make your voice heard.  And I always say, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.”  If your candidate doesn’t win, you can say “Don’t look at me.  I voted for the other guy.”  If your candidate does win, you can contact them and say “Hey, I voted for you.  Now get the job done.”

I’ve left the two largest topics for last and we will discuss them together:  Who do I vote for? and What do I vote for? No one can answer these questions but you.  It is your duty to be an informed voter.  Find out if your local newspaper puts out a Voting Guide.  I recently picked up one at the library that is put out by the League of Women Voters of Michigan Nonpartisan.  Don’t stop there, however.  These are just a starting point.  You also have to remember that many of these “guides” are put out by people with agendas of their own.    They do have a few excellent purposes.  They will give you a list of everyone running.  And most will have a section that you can write your choices in, clip and take to the polls with you.  I find this especially handy if there are multiple proposals on the ballot.

sample of a voter guide

example of a clip it & take it with you

Your next step should be the internet.  Everybody including my neighbor’s dog has a website.  I can guarantee you that the candidates do.  Research those running in your area.  Vote for the candidates and proposals that match your moral guidelines.  If the candidate has been in office before, find the ones who’ve voted the way you would vote if you were in office.  Remember that their job is to represent YOU.  Watch out for the mud-slinging.  Focus on what they are saying about themselves, not about their opponent.  If you want to know about the opponent, go to their website.  And you should look at every candidate not just the party that you are registered with unless you are only allowed to vote for candidates for the party you are registered for.  It has been my experience that voting along party lines usually happens in primary elections.  However, I recently was informed that some states do this for all elections.

So, we’ve discussed when to vote, where to vote, how to vote, why to vote, who to vote for and what to vote for.  There’s one more thing that you need to do and that is stay involved.  Once that candidate gets in office, hold him or her to their campaign promises.  If they promised free ice cream on the 3rd Thursday of every month and there’s no ice cream, tell them about it.  If there is a bill up for discuss on the fact that all toothbrushes should be blue and you agree or disagree, tell them about it.  The internet is right there.  They all have emails.  If you are on Facebook, there is an application called Visible Vote.  I haven’t used it as much as I should have but it seems to be a good way to keep informed.  There is also a Visible Vote application for iPhone, Blackberry & Google Android.  

I’m going to conclude today’s lecture by addressing those of you in the class who are currently too young to vote.  You may be asking: What can I do? You can be as informed as all those 18 and older.  And you can discuss the issues and candidates with the adults in your life.  One word of caution—get the information for yourself.  I understand that many of the schools hold mock elections and discuss the election topics in classes.  However, those presenting the information to you may have different moral guidelines than you do.  Listen to what they have to say but decide for yourself.  The ability to think and decide for yourself will always be your biggest asset.

Thank you for your attention.  You are free to leave or you may stay for the open discussion portion of the class.  I have only one guideline for this portion.  This is neither the time nor the place to discuss specific candidates or topics.  This is a discussion of the process of voting.  I’d love to hear from others who live outside of Macomb County, Michigan.  How do things work in your area?  What words of advice do you have for first time voters?

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