The 7-Step Guide To Voting When You Have No Idea WTF You're Doing

by John Haltiwanger
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It's an election year, which means it's time to exercise our most fundamental right and responsibility as citizens: voting.

Indeed, the importance of voting cannot be overstated.

Voting is a way to ensure your values and hopes for the future are reflected in the political process.

If you're discontented with the status quo, but don't vote, you really have no right to complain because you've done nothing to change things. When you don't vote, you let other people speak for you.

It's definitely fair to say America's voting process is pretty antiquated and has room for improvement. Even still, there's really no excuse not to vote.

Millennials, in particular, have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to voting.

As the largest and most diverse generation in US history, Millennials have the potential to be the largest voting demographic in the nation, but they're voting at a fraction of their size.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the fact of the matter is by not voting many young people are only hurting themselves.

Americans, in general, can definitely step up their game when it comes to voter participation. In 2012, only 53.6 percent of the adult voter population participated in the election. This needs to change if we truly want a government that works for the people.

Perhaps you'd like to vote and agree it's important, but aren't really sure how it all works. If that's the case, don't worry. We've got you covered.

Here's a seven-step guide to voting when you have no idea what the f*ck you're doing.

1. Make sure you're eligible to vote.

There are three basic requirements potential voters must meet to participate in a federal election. You must be a US citizen, meet your state's residency requirements and be 18 years old.

Certain states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and/or register to vote if they will be 18 before the general election.

If you're unsure if that's the case in your state, check out your state's voting registration age requirements.

2. Find out your state's voting registration deadline (and don't miss it).

Voting registration requirements differ state to state. Some states require you to register at least 30 days before the election, others allow you to register when you go to vote.

Look up your state's voting registration deadline and make sure there aren't any additional requirements as every state is different.

3. Register (it's not hard, we promise).

You can register to vote online in thirty states and the District of Columbia. If you're a bit old-fashioned, you can also register to vote via mail (unless you live in North Dakota, Wyoming, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands).

A number of public facilities also offer voter registration such as the department of motor vehicles and armed services recruitment centers.

4. Get informed (it's not that time consuming, we promise).

In order to find the candidate who best represents your perspectives, you're going to need to spend some time getting informed.

You might find the news tedious and boring, but the election is covered in so many different ways you can definitely find something that's at least moderately entertaining and engaging. And it really shouldn't take too much time out of your schedule.

Between the Internet and smartphones, we live in an era where we carry an unlimited amount of information in our hands, don't let it go to waste.

If you're not sure where to find the best info on the election and need a place to start, we've got you covered.

5. Vote in the primaries and caucuses (and yes, we think caucus is a funny word too).

Becoming President of the United States is a lengthy process that involves two years of non-stop campaigning combined with debates, town halls, primaries, caucuses and conventions -- all before the general election.

In order for someone to become president, they have to be nominated (by the two major political parties, Republicans and Democrats) at national conventions. Before that, however, there are caucuses and primaries, which occur over the course of the year on different dates and in various forms (depending on what state you live in).

With caucuses, voters choose the candidate that best represents their viewpoints through a mixture of debates and votes. Primaries are a bit more straightforward, and voters simply vote for the candidate they want to represent them in the general election.

The primaries and caucuses have a direct link to the national conventions, as they determine the delegates who are sent to the conventions to formally nominate a presidential candidate.

This is why participating in the primaries and caucuses is so important, as they're a way of helping your preferred candidate make it to the next round of the election.

6. Vote in the general election (the big day).

The general election (the day where we vote for the next leader of the free world) occurs on November 8.

In order to cast your vote, you'll need to go to a polling place or polling station (often a school close to where you live) and follow all instructions once you arrive.

If you're unsure where to go, click here to look up info about your state's polling place locations and related info.

Some states require you carry identification to prove who you are before casting your vote. If you're not sure if that applies to you, contact your state's election office and ask (or just bring an ID to be safe).

If you're going to be out of town (or even out of the country) on election day, don't worry, you can still vote with an absentee ballot (where you vote ahead of the election and return the ballot to your local election officials via mail).

You need to allow plenty of time to do this, so be sure to contact your state's election office as soon as possible to receive your absentee ballot and get it in the mail.

7. Be a good American/citizen and also vote in the midterms and local elections.

The President of the United States has a significant amount of power and influence over both domestic and international affairs. This is precisely why the presidential election is so important.

But we also need to keep things in perspective. There are plenty of other elected officials who also have a massive impact on both our lives and those of people across the globe.

Accordingly, don't just vote in the presidential election, you should also vote in the midterms and local elections.

The president is only around for eight years at most (if they're reelected), while many members of Congress often serve for decades -- they have a lot more influence than we realize.

Moreover, there are a lot of issues the federal government either can't or won't deal with, which makes voting in local elections really important if you want your community to thrive. The best cities around the world are often a product of an engaged citizenry.

Let your voice be heard at every level of government: VOTE.