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So far you've learned how to make sense of political ads, polls, and who is funding all of this stuff. You've done your research. Now it's time to make sure you're ready to actually cast your ballot.

List of election administrators: https://www.eac.gov/voters/election-day-contact-information

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Remember when you were a little kid and you were learning to tie your shoes?

It seemed like adults knew this big secret you couldn't figure out while you were running around with your light up velcro sneakers. But then once you figured out how to loop the bunny ears, you realized it wasn't actually that big a deal, and now it's just a skill you have for the rest of your life.

You probably don't even think about the process anymore; you just do it. Now, I'm not saying that voting is like tying your shoes. But it's not not like tying your shoes.

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Understanding all the rules, forms, and deadlines can feel overwhelming, and that's before you even get to figuring out which candidates to vote for. But for the next few minutes, we're gonna break down all the dos and don'ts, so that voting is no more intimidating than pulling through the little loop-de-loop. I'm Evelyn from the Internets and this is the final installment of the MediaWise Voter Guide.

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So let's start with the easiest one.

Do vote. No matter what you think of our political system, not voting doesn't make a statement. It just ensures that elected officials don't hear you at all. Think of voting as a way you can take the world you want to live in and make it a reality.

Voting isn't the only way to shape the world according to your values, but none of the other things you might be doing: local organizing, volunteering, donating to charity, calling your representatives, protests and activism, will get you as far if you don't also vote.

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Now that you're committed to voting, do make sure you know the rules and deadlines for your state. Because our government leaves the power to set election laws up to the states, each state has different dates and deadlines for registering to vote, requesting absentee ballots, and voting early. If you're a college student who goes to school in a different state than the one you live in, you can vote in either the state you're from or the state where you go to school, but not both. Choose the one you consider your primary residence and learn that state's rules.

To get you started, we made a whole series on this channel called How to Vote in Every State that explains... well, you get the idea. Just find the state or territory you plan to vote in, and let the video walk you through the process for how you register to vote and how to actually cast your ballot on election day, along with all the documents you need to get together for every step of the way.

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That said, this election year is kind of a weird one and many states are moving deadlines and changing absentee ballot requirements to make it possible for folks to vote safely while social distancing.

So after you watch the video for your state, just find the link to your state's board of elections in the video description or just check the handy list of election administrators we've linked below. This will get you to the website of the people in your state who are in charge of running elections. Your Secretary of State or Board of Elections website is a great place to find the info about your state's voter registration deadlines, vote by mail rules, and voter ID requirements that's most up to date.

Even if their websites sometimes look like they were designed in 2002.

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Then do make a plan to vote. There are a lot of little steps between you and the ballot box. And you'll have an easier time voting if you prepare for them. So pause the video, open up your notes app, ok?

Get out your bullet journal, and write down the steps you plan to take. So you might ask yourself questions like, How are you going to register? Does your state allow online registration or same-day registration at the polls?

Or do you have to print out a form and mail it in? Decide how you want to register and write it down. Then choose how you'll vote.

If you're voting by mail, maybe you need to add an absentee ballot request form to your list. Or maybe you're voting at an early voting site if your state has those. Or at your assigned polling place on election day.

Write down the day you're going to vote, what time you'll do it, how you're going to get there, even which friends you're gonna text to remind them to vote, too. And then make a list of anything you need to bring with you, like registration forms, or IDs. Boom.

Now all you gotta do is stick to the plan.

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Once you've got everything in order so that you can vote, now you get to do the really exciting part: decide who you're going to vote for. You can start by figuring out what elections are going to be on your ballot.

Do check that Board of Elections or Secretary of State website for a sample ballot. It'll show you everything you get to vote for: from the President of the whole United States all the way down to city council and school board. Here's a sneak peek don't for you: don't miss out on those local elections. So many important things, like how your schools get funded, to what your state's minimum wage is, to whether those potholes on your road get fixed are determined by state and local government.

Your state may also have ballot initiatives that, depending on your state, will let you share your opinion on a law that's being considered or actually make laws just by filling in that little ballot bubble. Tell me that's not power!

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Once you know what your ballot looks like, do your research.

We made you a whole video about how to do that, but the TLDR; is that you'll want to check out multiple sources like candidate websites, local news articles, independent voter guides and ask yourself those big W questions each time you come across new info: Who is behind this information, What is the evidence, What are other sources saying, Where is this being published and Why is this being published? As you get a sense for who you want to vote for, you can fill out your sample ballot and use it as a cheat sheet so you don't forget anything when you actually head to the polls.

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Alright.

One last do. Run it back to your Board of Elections website to look up your polling place and get a sense of what it's going to look like on election day. Your election administrator will publish information about how your precinct votes: whether that's using paper ballots or an electronic voting machine. Whether you'll check in by signing a register or by showing an ID.

Your state may also allow poll observers at your polling place. Poll observers are groups who watch an election in progress to make sure everything's going according to plan, that machines are working, that voters are being checked in properly, that no one's being turned away who shouldn't be. All that good stuff.

The laws vary from state to state about what they can do, where they can stand, whether or not they can be from partisan groups, but no matter what state you live in, they are not allowed to intimidate you out of voting.

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If you've gone through this whole checklist you know what you need to do to be eligible to vote, you know where and when to go, you know what's on your ballot and which candidates you want to vote for, and even what the polling place is gonna look like when you get there. Can you visualize it?

You feeding that ballot into the machine. The fireworks going off. Okay, maybe not fireworks, but you get the point.

It's exciting!

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But let's slow our roll for a second, and talk through a quick couple of don'ts to make sure nothing stands between you and those metaphorical fireworks. I know voting is exciting, but don't take voting booth selfies or wear your favorite candidate's t-shirt to go vote without checking your state's laws first.

Some states have laws against promoting a candidate or party within a certain distance of a polling place or from using a phone inside a polling place at all. So maybe plan to pull on a sweatshirt over your Senator Eveyln t-shirt before you head inside and wait to post a pic with your I Voted sticker until after you leave.

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Also, don't let misinformation or sensationalized reporting convince you not to vote.

If you've watched our episode on polling, you'll know that polls aren't votes. There's a reason that there's still a March Madness tournament at the end of a college basketball season. And there's a reason that we still hold elections no matter who is ahead in the polls. Even if the media says your candidate is really ahead, or really behind, your vote matters.

Many local elections are decided by a small handful of votes. And the more of us participate, the better our government can be at representing us.

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And lastly, don't be afraid to ask questions.

Even after you've done your research, you may still be unsure about some things, and that's okay. You can call or email your election administrator before election day, or talk to a poll worker at your polling place. It's their job to help you.

And if you ever see conflicting information about how to register to vote, and you're not sure what to believe, or you experience any kind of problems at your polling place, you can also call the non-partisan election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE, so just go ahead and save that number in your phone. When you call you'll reach a trained voting expert who can talk you through whatever you're confused about and make sure you know your state's rules and your rights as a voter. It's always good to have some backup at your fingertips, but for most of you, voting is going to be a pretty smooth process.

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And then you get to rock a cool sticker for the rest of the day that lets everybody know you're a thoughtful, civically engaged person who cares about the future of their community and their country. It's like in elementary school when you got stickers every time you finished reading a book, but instead of a pizza at the end, you get to shape the future. Though, the future better have pizza, still.

Bottom line, you're about to do a new thing, and like all new things, there's a little bit of a learning curve, but if you take a weekend, or an afternoon, or even a couple of hours to do some research and make a plan to vote you're gonna be in good shape. And then every time you vote after this, you'll be better and better prepared. So take a deep breath; you got this. And thank you for being a voter.

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The MediaWise voter project, MVP for short, is led by the Poynter Institute.

That's a journalism teaching non-profit. Complexly, the creator of this video, is a partner on MVP. The MediaWise voter project is supported by Facebook.