Maximize Your Vote: A How-To Guide to Election Season

A large “I Voted” sticker is stuck on the chest of the author, Hamilton junior Hannah Fathman. Smaller stickers are usually distributed at polling locations in respective counties for individuals who have voted (Photo illustration by Hannah Fathman).

It’s another election year. Amongst the fear and anxiety that the year alone brings on, the last thing you need to worry about is figuring out how to vote. If you’re ready to hit the polls and exercise your suffrage, here’s what you need to do and what you need to know.

When are Elections?

There are two elections to keep an eye on between now and this fall. First, primary elections will be occurring across the country very soon; the Democratic and Republican parties will elect the candidates that will be on the ballot in the presidential election in November.

Michigan’s primaries will be taking place on Feb. 27. If you’re from out of state, you should learn when yours will be since dates vary by state. For example, state and presidential primaries in Indiana won’t be until May 7.

The presidential election will take place on Nov. 5. That leaves a little over eight months until the big day.

Where do I go to Vote?

Where you vote depends on the address you registered with. Using online resources, finding your voting location is simple and only takes minutes. However, if you’re unable to make the journey home to vote, an absentee ballot might be the right option for you.

How to Order an Absentee Ballot

An absentee ballot allows you to vote from wherever you are and mail it in. There are a few ways to apply for an absentee ballot:

The first, and most time-efficient, is registering online before 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election.

The other options are to call your city or township clerk to request that an application be mailed to you or download an application to mail in or give to your local clerk.

If all else fails, fill out an application at your local clerk’s office. If using one of these methods, it’s recommended by the Michigan Voter Information Center that you apply at least two weeks before the election to get your ballot in time.

Getting Ready To Vote


Before you vote, you first need to register as a voter. If you are a U.S. citizen and are at least 16–18 years old, depending on your home state and a few other qualifications, you can do so relatively quickly online. However, you must be registered 15-plus days before the election.

When registering closer to election day, you can visit the local clerk’s office. Bring proof of residency documentation with you if you do so. Residency documentation can include a state ID, driver’s license, passport or utility bill.

Research Your Options

It’s important to be well-informed about the candidates you choose to support, focusing on individual qualities and endorsements rather than just party affiliation. It can be helpful to look at the various policies and beliefs of each candidate to understand how they will act in office on more than a singular issue. This will help you avoid unintentional single-issue voting.

There are online sources that show you what is on the ballot, as well as help you compare information about the candidates. BallotPedia, League of Women Voters and Votesmart are useful resources to help you learn about candidates before you cast your ballot.

The Third Party Dilemma 

Not satisfied with the Republican or Democratic candidates? You’re not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly a third of Americans feel unrepresented by both parties, the highest rate in 30 years of surveys.

So, what other option do you have? Some Americans have decided to vote for a third-party option – a candidate associated with neither Democrats nor Republicans. Nearly two-thirds of the population has expressed the need for a third party,

With so much support, you may be wondering why we haven’t seen a third-party president in over 170 years. The answer to that comes down to fear of the “spoiler effect,” the idea that candidates that attract voters of similar interests “steal” prospective voters away from a potentially more successful candidate, thereby splitting the vote and keeping ideologically adjacent parties from winning.

Ultimately, it’s your call whether or not you vote third party, but there is an undeniable shift in the demand for a multi-party system.

Go Get ‘em, Tiger!

At the end of the day, what matters is that you’re getting out there and voting. I plan on seeing you at the polls, not just in November, but at the primaries and local elections as well.

About Hannah Fathman 8 Articles
Hannah Fathman is a Junior Political Science major with a Theatre and Spanish Minor from Hamilton, Michigan. They’re focus is on bringing light to social injustices and human rights violations. Mainly, they focus on Race, Gender, and LGBTQ issues. They also enjoy the occasional witty opinion piece. If you have any questions, comments, or stories you’d like to see written, contact Hannah via email at

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