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*You* can be a part of history by registering to vote

"How old do you have to be to register to vote?"

"How do you vote?"

"When will I be able to vote?"

There can be a lot of confusion surrounding elections and how to get involved in the voting process. We want you to be as prepared as possible for the next election.

First off, many voting laws vary by state, so check out this website to look up your own state's policies. In short, though, there are 12 states that allow citizens to register to vote at age 16. It's considered pre-registration, so you're registration will remain "pending" until you turn 18. But once you fill out the forms, you will be eligible to vote on the day you turn 18 without redoing anything. 

Most other states allow you to register when you turn 18. The one variation between the rest of the states is that some states let you register if you are 18 by the general election and some states allow it if you are 18 by the time of the primaries. When you register to vote, you will likely pick a political party to be a part of. When you do this, you will be able to vote in the primaries as well as the general election. The primaries are sort of a pre-election where you get to vote for the candidate you want to represent your political party in the general election. If you choose not to register with a political party—depending on your state—you may or may not be able to vote in the primaries. 

There are many ways you can register to vote, either by paper or online. If you do it on paper, you can print out this document and mail it to the address listed under "State Instructions." You can also go paperless with Rock the Vote. They are a nonpartisan (they don't support a particular political party) and nonprofit organization that wants to help young people get involved in the voting process. You can register to vote on their website here

They aim at helping young people (that's you!) because they believe they are the future of the country, and we should be active in voicing our opinions about the government. The words "civic duty" may be a turnoff after hearing your social studies teachers say it over and over again, but that's what voting is—and it really is important to get out and vote. 

Though it may not seem like it, government officials make choices every day that could potentially affect *your* future. Whether it be implementing new travel rules, gun control rules or giving more money to colleges for scholarships, they are making decisions that can and will change the way we live our lives. Millennials (those born anywhere between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s to early 2000s) account for one-third of the eligible voting population, yet they have a low turnout at the polls.

Every vote really does count. Anything can happen in an election, and it will be tough to complain about your elected officials if you don't do anything to change it. Every election opens a chapter in history, and by voting, you have the opportunity to be a part of that. 

Why are you most excited to vote? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credits: Girl Scouts

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by Alyson Trager | 3/2/2018
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