Election 2012 – What you need to know before you vote

By Jodi Guglielmi, A&E Editor

August 18, 2012

The new semester upon us not only marks the beginning of a new school year, but it also brings us closer to one of the most important days of the year – election day, Nov. 6. For many college students, this will be their first time voting in a presidential election. There are a few vital steps that students need to take before going to vote in November.

Decide where to vote

If you are not from North Carolina, you can vote through an absentee ballot if you want your vote to count in your home state. You can register to vote online and apply for an absentee ballot at www.longdistancevoter.org.

Or, you can choose to vote as a North Carolinian. The Supreme Court has ruled that college students who go to school out of state can register to vote in either their home state or their school state. Guilford County simply requires that any person be a resident of the county for 30 days before registering to vote. By Sept. 18, nearly all out-of-state HPU students should meet this requirement.

Register to vote:

If you have not yet registered to vote, that is one of the first things that needs to be done. Many times, people are registered to vote without realizing it. You might have registered while in high school, or at the DMV when you got your license. No matter what the case, be sure you are registered.

To register in North Carolina, go to the Guilford County Board of Elections office in High Point at 301 W. Market St., Room 115; or pick up a mail-in registration form from the High Point Public Library at 901 N. Main St. According to www.countmore.org, North Carolina’s last day for voter registration is Oct. 12.

If you want to register in your home state, search the guidelines regarding absentee ballots in your home state.

Know the issues:

Government can be confusing; there is no denying that. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost when trying to follow debates and constant changes that occur during the election process. This is why it is important to get to know the issues before you decide on which candidate to vote for. Do some research on campaign websites, news sites and social media. Talk to your political science professors. Find out where you stand on some of the major issues that are discussed throughout presidential campaigning.

Some issues to consider might be healthcare, taxes, immigration, economic recovery, job creation and much more. Ask yourself: “What do I think is important and why?”

Choose your political party:

Once you have discovered your stance on the major issues, your political stance may become clear. Not everyone is either a Democrat or Republican, but they are the two most popular political parties. Each party has major differences that define themselves. It is important to know which party you identify with before going in to vote. You will also need to declare your political affiliation when you register to vote, though you can register as unaffiliated.

Get to know the candidates:

Barrack Obama is currently running for his second terms as the Democratic candidate, and Mitt Romney is running as the Republican candidate. Research both candidates. Watch some of their debates and decide if you still agree with their stances. If you one is the best representation of what you believe, then that is the candidate to stand behind. Also, keep an ear out for any local debates or rallies that you can attend. Going to these can help you learn even more about the candidate and the election process as a whole.

The election process is one that can be both stressful and exciting. Doing what you can to be prepared is doing your part in choosing who will lead America through the next four years. If you follow these steps and are confident going into the voting booth, it can be a monumental time in your life – one that will hopefully affect your daily thinking rather than just repeating the process every four years. Goodluck, and remember that every vote counts.