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In this first installment of The MediaWise Voter Guide Evelyn From The Internets walks you through The MediaWise Voter Project and some of the reasons this election year requires particular attention and focus. And don't worry, we've got 7 more episodes to help teach you everything you'll need to know as a first time voter.

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MediaWise is a nonprofit, nonpartisan project of the Poynter Institute and supported by Facebook. Complexly is an MVP partner, as are Campus Vote Project and Students Learn, Students Vote.
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Hello there, internet cousins and welcome to the MediaWise Voter Guide.

I’m your host, Evelyn from the Internets, and I have some great news for you, America. It’s 2020, and that means once again it is time for folks across the nation to exercise their right to vote.

They’ll get to use the power of this little finger – or this little finger -- or this whole hand if they’re writing a mail-in ballot – to do a democracy. 2020 is, of course, turning out to be an eventful year for reasons none of us really saw coming. We didn't exactly ask to live through a historic moment but here we are. This year was already going to be a unique one, voting wise.

That’s because one-in-ten eligible voters will be between the ages of 18 and 23. Many of them will be casting their ballots for the first time. This is the first installment of the MediaWise Voter Guide, which is a series created by Complexly and the Poynter Institute’s MediaWise Voter Project, Hashtag MVP 2020, which is also supported by Facebook.

The project aims to reach 2 million American college students this year through videos like this one and other virtual – and virtually-live – events leading up to Election Day. The goal is to educate young voters across the political spectrum. We hope to give you the tools you need to find accurate and reliable information about the upcoming elections.

We want you to be confident in your choices – to know that who and what you vote for is based on straight facts, not fiction. And we know it’s not always easy. The internet can be a wonderful place to live.

Tik Tok dances. Babies who can’t say “popsicle” right. Beyoncé and Meg Thee Stallion on the same song?

What did we do to deserve? But, come election season, things get a little weird. Polls, primary results, debate memes, endorsements, corny ads where candidates try to learn Tik Tok dances.

It’s more drama than the Bachelor’s “biggest season finale EVER.” Along with all those heightened emotions, misinformation – meaning false or inaccurate info – can be a real hazard to our newsfeeds. Like those pixelated Instagram memes with outdated or out of context captions, misinfo can unintentionally creep into our everyday media diets. Then there’s disinformation, meaning completely made-up info meant to cause harm.

Like a website designed to imitate a real local newspaper so it can look trustworthy while spreading falsehoods. Whether it’s being spread on purpose or by accident, false information is a real drag on democracy. But it’s not only used to convince voters to choose one side or the other.

It’s also part of voter suppression. That is, how bad actors hope to influence the outcome of an election by convincing people not to vote at all. As the Associated Press reports, election security experts say voter suppression remains a significant threat as foreign and domestic groups seek to polarize Americans and influence elections.

And first-time voters – like a lot of young people – may be targeted. It’s not just because they’re new at this, but also because they’re a big, important, voting population. Suppression takes many forms.

It could mean implementing restrictions that keep certain groups disenfranchised or simply make voting harder for them. Take this example: in Alabama, a photo ID is required to cast a ballot. But photo IDs can cost a pretty penny, and obtaining a free ID takes time and might even require travel.

For many people, getting a photo ID or bringing the one they already have isn’t an issue. But for some, those tasks represent too high of a barrier. So they may just not vote at all.

Think a few extra steps wouldn’t keep you from voting? Remember the last time you cancelled plans because it was raining and you had already put sweats on and just wanted to stay in bed watching Netflix? I mean I know we’re all spending a lot of time doing that now, but in the BEFORE, once my sweats were on, my plans were off.

Voter suppression can also take the form of false or misleading information about how to vote. In past elections, suppression efforts have included posts that falsely claim you need special paperwork at the polls, or that election day was rescheduled. Making it sound too hard or confusing can discourage folks from even trying to vote.

Some posts went the opposite way and made voting sound way too easy. They claimed, falsely, that you could cast your ballot via text. It would be really cool to vote with emoji – like sparkle, balloon, Elephant or party popper Donkey clinking glasses.

But we’re not there yet. Plus, there’s not even a donkey emoji. There’s a camel with one hump and a camel with TWO humps, but no donkey.

Make it make sense. Sidebar: if you want the nitty-gritty of how and when you can vote in elections where you live, we have a video for that. Go to youtube.com/howtovoteineverystate and look for the video we made for your state.

You’ll learn which local laws and registration guidelines apply to you. This Voter Guide is not here to sell you on who or what to vote for. The MediaWise Voter Project is a strictly nonpartisan endeavor.

We just want to show you how to cast the most informed ballot you possibly can. We’re trying to empower voters to spot any misleading information, no matter where it’s coming from or who it supports. Because, like it or not, misinformation is disseminated by Republicans, Democrats, and all sides of pretty much any given issue.

Unfortunately, it’s a universal problem. But, it’s a problem we can solve together by remaining informed and alert. So, how can a first time voter prepare to cast a ballot?

Well, to start, keep watching these videos. We’re going to learn how to research the candidates, find out where their money comes from, analyze political ads, read all those polls, and much more. Lucky for you, you won’t have to wait long for our next episode.

Next week, you’ll want to grab your metaphorical magnifying glass. We’re about to do some serious internet sleuthing. The MediaWise Voter Project is led by The Poynter Institute – that's a journalism teaching non-profit.

Complexly, the creator of this video, is a partner on MVP. And so are Campus Vote Project and another cool coalition organization called Students Learn, Students Vote. The MediaWise Voter Project is supported by Facebook.