Navigating election season: Political advice from a political novice

A new President will be elected a year from now. If you are like me, the idea of performing your civic duty by voting leaves a knot in the pit of your stomach. Not because you don’t want to be a good citizen, but because understanding the myriad of issues through the extensive candidate-to-candidate tongue-lashings can be a bit difficult to navigate through.

Such circumstances leaves citizens like you and me with limited options. Either we choose not to vote because we don’t feel we can make a well-informed decision, we vote with our best guess hoping we are making a good choice, or we vote blindly, selecting candidates at random, hoping that the truly right person for the job will end up on top despite your ignorance.

None of these options are in our best interest, or that of our nation. With a year to prepare, hopefully these resources will help you learn what the real issues are so you can feel like you will truly make a difference when you vote.

First of all, you need to be registered to vote. Many times you will be given that option when you get your driver’s license renewed. If you are not sure whether or not you are registered, you can go to www.elections.il.gov/VotingInformation/RegistrationLookup.aspx. Here you will enter your first and last name followed by your zip code. If you are registered, a screen will come up with your information and it will also list your polling place. If you are not registered, this same website has an online voter registration application.

That handles the paperwork part of it. Now, there are two important election dates in 2016. The Primary Election will be on March 15, 2016. This is where candidates will be narrowed down by party. Currently, there are about 21 candidates vying for the presidential spot. This field will be greatly reduced leaving one candidate per political party.

Sadly, primary elections are often overlooked because it is not viewed with just importance. According to wisegeek.org, primary elections are even more important than the general election in November.

“Many voters don’t seem to realize that the primary is one of the most important phases of an election. This is when each vote counts the most, because it gives people the ability to decide who the best candidate is.”

The second important date is the General Election on November 8, 2016. This is when one party will win over all the others, ultimately naming the president-elect, along with other candidates currently up for office. Knowing the important dates is key, but how do you weed through the fierce, confusing campaign ads?

It helps to first know what the political issues are. Information about the various issues can be found at www.presidentialelection.com/Political_Issues/. That alone, however, does not tell you where the candidates stand on those issues. It will, however, help you learn the facts to determine what issues are important to you and help you in your next step – learning what side of the issue(s) each candidate stands on.

To find out who the candidates are, visit www.presidentialelection.com/candidates/. The candidates are divided by party: Democrat, Republican, and Third Party Candidates.

Knowing the issues and the candidates are two very important steps when learning to navigate the election field. But now you need to connect these two things. What issues are important to the candidates? “On the Issues” is a website that will help you answer that question.

This may still seem a bit intimidating to the novice voter, but you have five months before the Primary, and a year before the General Election. Make it a priority to educate yourself on the important issues so that you can vote with a good conscience.