A guide for first time voters

Audrey Bhagi, Staff Writer

With election day coming up, this guide will provide Madison’s 18-year-olds with an overview of what you should know before voting. 

Election day this year is on Tuesday, Nov. 8, where voters will be casting their ballots to elect candidates for Congress. 34 seats in the Senate and all seats in the House of Representatives are open, accumulating to a total of 469 seats in Congress up for election.

To begin the voting process, you must first register to vote with the Virginia Department of Elections. You can do so here. Keep in mind that even if you’re 17, you may still register early and have the opportunity to vote in the next election if it’s on or after your birthday. If you’d prefer, you have the option to register either in-person or by printing the registration and mailing it to your local election office. If you plan on signing up online or through the mail, the deadline to do so is Oct. 17. In-person registration can be done at your voting location on Nov. 8.

Now that you’re officially registered to vote, the next step is research. Before election day, make sure to check who the candidates are, what party they’re running for, and what political and social stances they take. This is to ensure that you’re voting for someone that has the same (or closely related) values and ideas as you. To do this, voters can head to VoteSmart, which allows you to research a specific politician, and I Side With… to look at what candidates best match your views. Additionally, voters can check out FactCheck.org to see the real information on untrustworthy news.

After you do your research, it’s time to look up your voting location! On the Virginia Department of Elections website, you can log in to find what polling location corresponds with your address. You can look it up here. On election day, poll sites are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., so ensure that you establish a time to go. In Virginia, voters also have the ability to mail in their ballot instead. You must sign up to do this and can find the application here.

Early voting is also an option; all voters are able to vote up to 45 days before Nov. 8. Since the upcoming election is non-federal, voters are not required to provide a form of ID for early voting. However, for you first time voters, it is required that you provide a copy of a qualified ID with your completed ballot if you registered by mail and wish to cast your vote by mail. 

Now that you have all the information you need, you’re prepared to go vote! Have fun!