Your Voice Matters: Voting
Voting gives you a voice. When you vote, you exercise your right to have a say in how your country is run. When you vote, you take an active role in influencing issues from affordable hospital visits and protecting marriage equality to public school curriculum and renewable energy.
Did you know young people (ages 18-29) make up 21% of the U.S. population eligible to vote?* That’s just one more reason why it’s more important than ever to make sure you vote once you turn 18.
How You Can Prepare to Vote
Make Sure You’re Registered
It only takes two minutes to register! You can visit https://elcentrodelaraza.org/get-involved/vote/ or https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/ to get started. If you’re currently 16 or 17 years old, you can sign up as a future voter now and be automatically registered to vote when you turn 18.
Understand What ID You Need to Vote
In Washington State, most people vote by mail (also called absentee voting). Even so, it’s helpful to be familiar with all your options. Make sure you know what you need depending on how you’re planning to vote.
For Washington State voters, bring one of the following photo IDs if you vote in person:
- A Washington driver’s license or state ID card
- A student ID card
- A tribal ID card
- Employer ID card
Create a Voting Plan
Before thinking about what candidates want, it’s a good idea to think about what you want. Take time to figure out where you stand on certain issues that often come up during elections. Try thinking or even journaling about your viewpoint on the following issues.
- Access to affordable physical and mental health services
- Relations with other countries
- Gun laws
- Racial and financial inequality
- Climate change
- LGBTQIA+ rights
- Access to abortions
- Where your tax dollars go (e.g., schools, roads, military)
Writing down how you feel about these topics and what you hope to see happen in these areas can help frame your opinion before you see where candidates stand on these same issue areas.
Pro-tip: Tell a friend your voting plan. Doing so can serve as an accountability tool and even encourage your friends to create their own voting plans. You could even plan a fun night around filling out ballots with friends or dropping them off together before an activity.
You’re not alone if you feel like voting and politics can get overwhelming. You can bet there’ll be many people whose thoughts and opinions about candidates are different from yours. Don’t forget that your own values and opinions are valid—even if they might differ from those around you.
Learn about the candidates on your ballot and get to know where they stand on issues that matter to you. Remember that the leaders you elect will become decision makers on many things that directly impact you and your community. You can visit https://www.vote411.org/ballot and input your address to get a voters’ guide detailing information on applicable candidates.
Pro-tip: Save time at the polls by having your research done before Election Day. You can use a sample ballot to indicate who you want to vote for and bring that with you to the polls as a reference sheet for when you vote.
Find Your Polling Place
If you’re voting in Washington State, you’ll probably vote by mail. If you’d prefer to vote in person, every county will open a voting center 18 days before primary, special, and general elections. You can locate your nearest voting center through https://voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx or by contacting your county’s elections department.
Ways to Vote
Vote By Mail/Absentee
If you’re registered to vote in Washington, you won’t need to request a ballot and you’ll automatically be sent one.
If you’re voting by mail elsewhere, you might need to formally request a ballot beforehand. But if for some reason, you’re unable to return a ballot during the typical vote by mail window, you can submit a special application in person 90 days before the election.
All normal mail-in ballots need to be signed and postmarked or dropped off by Election Day to count. If you’re dropping it off, you can return your ballot to an official drop box. If you’re mailing it (no stamp needed), you should do so at least a week before Election Day to make sure it arrives on time.
Vote in Person
If you plan to vote in person, make sure you know where to go on Election Day.
Sometimes, there can be lines at the polls. It can be helpful to come up with a plan that gives you a generous amount of time to vote if that’s the case. Figure out how you’re getting to the polls—whether you plan to drive, take the bus, or walk. And don’t forget to pack water and snacks in case you have to wait a while!
Pro-tip: A great way to avoid potential lines on Election Day is to vote in person early.
Lastly, it’s good to recognize and report any voter intimidation. Voter intimidation occurs when someone attempts to interfere with another’s right to vote. For example, if someone aggressively questions a voter about their citizenship. Check out this guide for more on how to safely identify and report it.
Remember, voting is your right! It gives you a chance to make an impact and lets your voice be heard on issues that matter most to you. And even if you aren’t eligible to vote just yet, it’s never too early to get the facts and get excited.
*Source: 2015 American Community Survey