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How to Vote

July 3, 2013

You may be wondering how to vote in America. Perhaps you’ve just turned eighteen, just became a citizen, or some other event has sparked your civic interest in participating in the great democratic experiment. Great! The following is a short guide that will walk you through the whole process, and also discuss some options for your voting needs.

One thing to keep in mind: voting is regulated by your state, and the local laws and procedures may vary to some extent where you live. Be persistent, conscientious, and involved, and you should be able to vote in no time!

Step 1: Register
The very first thing you need to do is register to vote. You can register in some places online, through the mail, or in person. The first thing to do is to use your phonebook or computer to locate your closest election commission. These are the local officials whose job is to help register and inform voters. They are on your side and should be helpful in getting you registered. Many states nowadays require certain forms of identification so they can be sure you are who you say you are. This can be a birth certificate, driver’s license, or other state-issued ID. Find the contact information for your local commission to see what your state requires in order to register.
Once you’ve registered, you should receive your voter ID card in the mail! This is, in general, a card that identifies you and your voting precinct. A voting precinct is your local polling place, and that’s where you’ll need to go if you want to vote in person in order to cast your ballot.

Note: Males turning 18 are automatically issued a Selective Service (draft) card, and this will usually be accompanied by an invitation to register to vote. Make sure you’re registered with both the Selective Service and your local voting authority!

Step 2: Decide When to Vote
There are many elections in the United States. From city council members, mayors, to sheriffs, local representatives, congressmen, judges, and even the President of the United States, many of our representatives are elected.In many local elections, but also state and sometimes federal, there are also votes on new laws and measures that the public has a direct hand in enacting. You’ll often be informed by local activists when there’s an important election coming up, or an important ballot measure, but don’t count on anyone doing so! Also, sometimes politics can get dirty and there will be campaigns to misinform voters. Don’t be fooled! You can always get voting information from your local commission’s website and other official sources.

Step 3: Decide How to Vote
Now that you’ve registered to vote, you’ve located your polling place, and you know what issues or elections you want a say in, it’s time to vote! In the United States, there are two ways to cast your ballot: in person at your polling place, and via mail. You can apply for a mail-in ballot through your local election commission, and if you’re in an underserved or other community with a strong presence of volunteers, you may get someone at your door offering to get you registered and to give you a mail-in ballot. The very nice thing about mail-in ballots is they are completely confidential, and you can just pop them in the mailbox when you’re done. While all votes are confidential, you can vote on issues that matter to you right in the comfort of your home. Don’t forget to mail your ballot before the deadline!
If you decide to vote in person, make sure you know the date and times that your local polling place are open. Arrange for reliable transportation, and take some time to research your local issues. In many states local ballot measures and elections will be held at the same time as federal elections. Take the time to read up on the candidates and issues at hand, they represent you! When you arrive at the polling place, you may be required or requested to show a valid state-issue ID. If this is the law in your state, make sure you’ve got it ready. The people at polling places are volunteers, and they want to help you vote, so be sure to ask for help if you need it.

Step 4: Vote!
You’ve registered with your local election commission, received your voter registration card, researched the representatives and issues on the ballot, and decided to mail-in a ballot or go in person to cast your vote. Now, all that’s left is to go and do it! Depending on your locality you may vote with a touch-screen computer, a lever operated machine, or by penciling in circles on a form. Whichever way your local area votes, if you have any questions or concerns, be sure to talk to a volunteer at the polling place. They are there to help you any way they can.

Step 5: Get Involved
Congratulations! You’ve cast your vote and taken part in one of the great freedoms we as Americans sometimes take for granted. Now take the next step and go out and make sure your friends and family are also registered voters. The democracy is only as strong as the people who take the time to participate and vote, and if there’s something on your mind, vote on it!

How to Volunteer for a Political Campaign

March 6, 2013

There are lots of reasons to volunteer for a political campaign. Whether you are wanting to boost your resume or make connections, doing so can be a great starting off point for many things. In fact, it is one of the first things I recommend you do if you want to get involved in the world of politics. It also can be a great way to diversify your experiences regardless of what your career is. Any kind of volunteer work you do is going to be a good thing in potential employer’s eyes.

And, of course, volunteering on a campaign staff is a fantastic way to meet new people. Whether it is just making a few new friends, or developing important professional relationships, this is one of the biggest benefits of this volunteer work.

So if you want to try this out this elections season, here is my guide on how to volunteer for a political campaign.

Identify and Research Candidates

Odds are pretty good that you already have an idea of who you want to volunteer for. If you don’t, do your research. Look for candidates running for different offices that have similar views on issues as you do. You don’t want to end up contributing to a campaign you don’t believe in. When you have a good list, make your decision based on where you think you can make the biggest impact, and which candidate you believe in the most.

Find A Local Campaign Office

Once you have a candidate in mind to volunteer for, find out where their local offices are. As election season nears, these will start to pop up all over the place, especially if you are in an urban area. The best way to find these in the modern world is the internet, as any campaign worth its salt has contact information for all local offices on their website.

Call Or Stop By

You can call the office, or simply stop by. Ask about what kind of situation they are in as far as volunteers go, and what work you could potentially do for them. Ask more questions than you think necessary and find out exactly what will be expected of you as a volunteer.

Don’t Freak Out About the Jobs

Let me level with you: political volunteer work isn’t always the most fun. Be ready to stuff lots of envelopes, staple together plenty of lawn signs, and knock on your fair share of doors. These tasks may seem trivial, but they are absolutely critical for political campaigns, and that is why you are volunteering.

Don’t get mad about not being able to do something that seems more important or fun to you. If the campaign you are working on is going to be successful, someone has to do the legwork. Pride yourself in your contribution, however small it may seem.

Work Hard

Regardless of what I said above, you should always work your hardest on the tasks assigned to you and the other volunteers of a campaign. Remember that you are partly there to help advance your career, whether political or not, so make a positive impression by working hard with a good attitude.

If you do all of the above things, you will no doubt have an enjoyable volunteer experience. Hopefully it will help you forge some new connections, whether they be personal or professional, and help give you the boost in our career you are looking for. Keep volunteering, and you may even end up with a legitimate job for a campaign at some point.

How to Work for a Political Campaign

February 27, 2013

Political campaigns are considered by many to be shady organizations, and many times rightly so. However, if you want to become involved in politics, working for a campaign is a fantastic opportunity. Doing so will give you experience, help build connections, and maybe be a great starting out point for an up and coming political career.

Keep in mind though that it isn’t all glory when working for a campaign. These jobs are often very strenuous, and require massive amounts of overtime work. In fact, 20 hour days are not unheard of when working for a campaign. Be prepared for long hours, high stress, and intense situations.

If you want to work for a political campaign, here are some things you can do to make it happen:

Join a Party

Joining a political party is a very important first step of this process. If you want to work for a political campaign, you need to make sure you are affiliated with a party which you can support. Find out which party’s ideologies align most closely to yours. You likely already have all of this figured out, but this is an important reminder for anyone who doesn’t.

Start out Volunteering

Most political campaigns pay only a few dedicated employees, the rest of their workforce is made up of volunteers. To get started at the ground level, you will need to do some volunteer work for a political campaign. Whether it is a national presidential campaign or a local one, any work you can do will help you later, even if you don’t get paid now. You will develop important connections by doing this, and hopefully make a little bit of a name for yourself.

Don’t Complain

When you are doing the lower level campaigning work, you likely won’t be doing anything fun. Stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors may not be your favorite thing in the world. However, try your hardest to avoid complaining about it in any way to anyone. You never know who will end up running for office one day, and if you want to get hired by someone who you volunteered with back in the day, you better hope they remember you as a hard worker.

Network Everywhere

This is one of the biggest keys to politics, and it is mentioned in almost every article on this site. Networking is extremely important, regardless of whether you are trying to simply work for a local campaign or run for a Senate seat. Use every opportunity possible to forge new connections, and strengthen existing ones. If you are volunteering, you will have tons of opportunities to make new connections with people who hold power within your party.

Do an Internship

Beyond just volunteering during campaign season, there are also lots of internships an aspiring political worker can take advantage of. For students especially, there are tons of internships that will connect you with people in high places, and give you college credit at the same time. All US Congress members run internship programs both in the offices in their state, as well as in Washington DC itself. Having one of these internships on your resume is a great way to show you know your way around the political system.

Climb the Ladder

If you’ve done some volunteering or maybe an internship, you are ready to begin climbing the ladder. Your experiences in one campaign will help you get a higher position in the next. The one key disadvantage to this career path is the gap in time between campaign seasons, but if you apply each year to campaigns and begin to build up a solid history of working them, you will no doubt have opportunities to work in the position you want for the campaign you want.

Job Getting Basics

Of course, there are lots of basic job getting skills that you should have a solid handle on when you are attempting to work a campaign. Resume writing, interviewing, self-promotion and more are hugely important, and your skills in each will likely determine the success of your employment quest. I highly recommend that you read Get a Job NOW, which is all about mastering these skills. It is a relatively short Kindle ebook that has tons of fantastic advice on the subject.

How to Get Involved in Politics as a Teenager

February 7, 2013

When looking at those who serve in the government, it is impossible to avoid the impression that government is primarily for those over the age of 40. Despite this, teenagers are often among the most interested in politics. For them, politics is an avenue for improving the world around them, and many future world leaders become interested in politics while still in their teenage years. Despite this enthusiasm, many teenagers feel that there is no place in politics for them; the reality, however, is that there is room for people of all ages. Here are a few ways that teenagers can become involved in politics.

Volunteer for a Campaign

Campaigns are run on all levels of government, and those running for office depend on volunteers to help them reach out to the public. One of the best ways to learn about politics is to volunteer to handle certain tasks on a political campaign. Canvassing is popular, and teenagers who ask to help may be asked to canvass neighborhoods. While this can be difficult work, it is a great way to learn about how people think about politics. In addition, those who canvass areas will learn how to speak in an effective, compelling manner.

Attend Meetings and Debates

Another way to get involved in politics is to attend meetings on a regular basis and ask questions. On the local level, there are often many opportunities for the public to interact with politicians. In some cities, however, the public is decidedly indifferent toward these meetings. Teenagers can take advantage of this fact and use these forums to ask politicians questions, and they may be able to meet politicians once the meeting has ended. Politics is largely about networking, and those who actively participate and meet people involved in politics set themselves up to take advantage of opportunities in the future.

Start a Blog

Many teenagers are more interested in the abstract elements of politics. For example, a teenager might be interested in a particular political or economic philosophy. One of the best ways to share this interest with the world is to start a blog and post to it regularly. While most blogs will not attract large audiences, a blog that is updated regularly will likely gain a consistent base of followers. By asking questions on blog posts and interacting with those who leave comments, it is possible to learn about politics while honing one’s ability to speak in a clear and compelling manner. Further, blogs can serve as great portfolios for those interested in working in politics.

Learn as Much as Possible

Politics can seem deceptively simple, but the field of politics is actually much more complex than many imagine. By beginning the process of learning about politics as early as possible, teenagers can prepare themselves for earning degrees and engaging in intellectual debates. Thanks to the Internet, there are more resources for learning about politics than ever before, but it is important that teenagers avoid one-sided articles and websites, which can give a false impression about the theory and history behind government. While educating themselves, teenagers may want to try to adopt a disinterested, open-minded view of political and economic theory.

Unfortunately, some of the most common reactions to politics are those of indifference or boredom. Thankfully, teenagers are often free from these feelings, and many show a profound interest in politics. While professional politics is largely the realm of people well beyond on their teenage years, there is room for people of all ages. By being proactive and taking advantages of all opportunities they can find, teenagers can play a significant role on all levels of politics.

How to Get Involved in Local Politics

January 22, 2013

Everyone these days seems to pay at least some attention to the national political scene, but not nearly as many people express an interest in local politics. However, local politics is just as important, and maybe even more so, to each person’s life. You local government policies and leaders will shape how you live your daily life, so getting involved in local politics may be a smart thing for you to do.

There are many ways you can get involved in politics on the local level. What you choose to do will obviously be based on your desires, abilities, and priorities. Here are some suggestions that should get you going down the right path.

Vote

The simplest and easiest way to let your voice be heard is to vote in an upcoming election. There is no better way to make sure your opinion is heard, and it is your right to help pick the people leading your city or town! Many times people will vote in the presidential elections, and then not in the local elections. Make sure you vote during any election you can to have the maximum impact. Local elections sometimes take place on off years so make sure you know when they will be happening.

Donate

If you would like to help a candidate win an election, consider donating to their campaign. Candidates need every bit of help they could possibly get financially, as political campaigns are often very expensive to run successfully. Your gift, large or small, will be very much appreciated and might help win the candidate an office. Most of the cash will likely go towards helping publicize the candidate in some manner, like through signs, radio spots, or maybe television advertisements. In today’s world, they may also use online marketing.

Volunteer For a Campaign

Campaigns are always asking for volunteer help. Contact campaign offices to uncover how you could possibly get involved. Some of the very common volunteer roles needed are:

  • Administrative: These are generally where the most help is needed. While they may be somewhat mindlessly uninteresting, they also call for no specific skills, so you can do them regardless of your background! This is stuffing envelopes, answering balloons, or setting up signs, or any other type of administrative task the campaign needs.
  • Organization: If you have experience with leadership and previous campaigns, you may be a good person to assist organize the political campaign at some level. This includes things like finance and marketing.
  • Communicators: Oftentimes campaigns will have groups of people that just go around and consult people about their particular candidate, or encourage individuals to vote. Consider being one of these people.

Volunteer During the Election

Elections also need a great deal of volunteer staff to run smoothly themselves. You may get to count ballots, monitor voting procedures, assist registering voters, or many other tasks. Contact your local election offices to find out where you can help. You can also be one of the cool people which shouts “Joe Smith has voted!” or “Susie Scott has voted!” as loud as possible for every voter.

Ask Others to Vote

We’ve all received a knock on the door or a phone call from someone requesting us to vote. So why not make those calls and visits yourself? It is a powerful way to get more and more people out to the polls, which is really among the best ways you can help contribute to the actual political system. The greater numbers of people that vote, the better the system works, and the more honest and fair the final results are.

Run for Office

Of course, the ultimate way to get involved in local politics is to run for office. This isn’t a decision you take on lightly, but it may just be for you. If you like politics, and don’t mind a lot of the negatives that come along with the political scene (like a uniquely public life as well as instability of work), you may just want to get started building a political career. Read our guide on how to become a politician to see how to get started down this journey.

There are many other ways that you can begin to get involved in local politics, but the above ideas should serve as a good starting point. Explore the site a little more if you want to find out more about getting involved in the American political system.

How to Get Involved in Politics

January 19, 2013

Despite it being one of the taboo dinner table topics in American culture, everyone has an opinion on politics. Whether you are conservative or liberal, you likely have felt the urge to express that opinion on more than one occasion. It can be hard to deny that feeling.

If you want to be able to not only express your opinion, but also maybe help make your opinions become realities, you may want to consider getting involved in American politics. It may be viewed by some as a dirty game full of under the table dealings and conspiracy, but someone has to play it. If you think you have what it takes to get into the political scene, here are some of the best ways you can get involved in politics.

Vote

The simplest and easiest way to let your voice be heard is to vote in the next election. There is no better way to make your opinion count, and it is your right to help choose the people leading this country! Remember to not only vote in the presidential election years, but also in the midterm elections. Local elections sometimes take place on off years as well, so watch for those.

Donate

If you want to help a candidate win an election, consider donating to their campaign. Candidates need all the help they can get financially, as political campaigns can be very expensive to run successfully. Your donation, large or small, will be very much appreciated and may help get win the candidate the office. Most of the money will likely go towards helping advertise the candidate in some way, like through signs, radio spots, or television ads.

Volunteer For a Campaign

Campaigns are always in need of volunteer help. Contact campaign offices to find out how you can get involved. Some of the most common volunteer positions needed by candidates are:

  • Administrative: These are where the most help is needed. While they may be somewhat mindlessly boring, they also require no skills, so you can do them no matter your background! This may be stuffing envelopes, filling balloons, or putting up signs.
  • Organization: If you have experience with leadership and previous campaigns, you may be a good person to help organize the campaign.
  • Communicators: Oftentimes campaigns will have groups of people who just go around and talk to people about their candidate, or encourage people to vote.

Volunteer During the Election

Elections also need tons of volunteer staff to coordinate. You may get to count ballots, supervise voting procedures, help register voters, or a myriad of other tasks. Contact your local election offices to find out what you can do to help. You can even be one of those cool people who shoots “Joe Smith has voted!” and “Susie Scott has voted!” at the top of your lungs for every voter.

Ask Others to Vote

We’ve all had someone come around to our house or make a phone call asking us to vote. So why not be that person yourself? It is a great way to get more and more people out to the polls, which is really one of the best ways you can help contribute to the political system. The more people that vote, the better the system works, and the more honest and fair the results are.

Run for Office

Of course, the ultimate way to get involved in politics is to run for office yourself. This isn’t a decision you take on lightly, but it may just be for you. If you like politics, and don’t mind some of the negatives that come along with the political scene (like a totally public life and instability of work), you may just want to get started on a political career. Read our guide on how to become a politician to find out how to get started down this journey.

There are of course lots of other ways to get involved in the wide world of American politics, but the above are some of the best. Explore the site a little bit more if you would like to find some more interesting ideas on how you can get involved in this great nation’s governmental system.