Home Features A step-by-step guide to voting for the first time

A step-by-step guide to voting for the first time


When it comes to voting in America, it is the constitutional right of citizens to do so. It ensures people’s voices are heard when it comes to deciding who will make impactful decisions about the future of their country. As of 2020, voting has become more essential than ever due to political disturbances amidst a global pandemic. However, when the opportunity to vote arises, many Gen Z’ers feel defeated due to the lack of information about voting and simply feel unprepared. Here are the four most important steps in voting for the first time.

Before exploring the most important steps in voting, it’s essential to understand why we vote, why it’s important.

It’s our constitutional right to vote. It is an opportunity to let your voice be heard. Regardless of how unconstitutional America may seem, the right to vote will always remain the same. America is one of few countries that allows voting by choice by almost everyone.

“At a local level, things (votes) really matter, even in SD308 when we look at our funding situation right now,” Aaron Hendricks, advisor for OHS’s Youth & Government Delegation and a member of the Robert McCormick Foundation Illinois Democracy School Initiative’s Site Team, said. “One of the problems that we’re in as far as the money situation is because no matter how people feel about some of those issues, the very small percentage of people who show up to vote represents a very small proportion on a national level.”

Every vote is impactful, a single vote has the potential to determine if a school gets extra funding or if a park can be built.

Step 1: Do your Research

The worst thing you can do when voting for the first time is to go in blindsided with no information on your candidates. When it comes to doing your research before you vote, it’s the most important step regardless of how many times you’ve voted.

“Cross reference sources and if it sounds too scandalous to be true do further verification,” Henricks said. “Differentiate what is news versus what is opinion.”

Some sources with the least amount of partisan bias for politics are The Washington Post, NPR, and The New York Times.

Also, remember that voting is a privilege to be taken seriously. While there may be political humor under all of this, don’t let Twitter convince you that voting for Kanye West is a seriously good idea. Voting is a serious matter and should be taken as such.

Step 2: Register to Vote

Before you vote, you are required to register before your state’s deadline. You can register to vote online at https://ova.elections.il.gov/Step0.aspx.

After registering to vote you will need to find your polling place, which will vary depending on your address. Polling places include, but aren’t limited to, schools, town halls, and post offices.

Step 3: Keep Requirements in Mind

To register and to vote, there are a few requirements to consider that may halt your voting process:

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • A resident of whichever state you’re voting in
  • Cannot be serving a sentence

A few other requirements to keep in mind when physically voting for the first time is to remember to bring a valid ID. A copy of your lease or mail from your current residence will also be required if you’re voting for the first time and you registered by mail.

Step 4: Go Vote!

It’s time to cast your ballot, still nervous? No worries, there will be plenty of helping hands such as the poll workers at each voting center. You’ve done your research, you’ve cross referenced your sources, registered, found your polling location, and you’ve got the necessary information to cast your ballot!

“If a politician is deciding, ‘Do I wanna make an older generation angry or do I make the young people angry?’…The studies always show, the younger people won’t show up at the polls to vote them out, the older people will,” Henricks stated. “If you wanna change that narrative, show up and vote!”

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