Voting for the First Time? Check Out These Tips

Reboot Illinois' Shantae Howell is voting for the first time in the 2014 elections. She shared her top tips for first-time voters:

Were you under the age of 18 last election season? Me too! But don't worry -- you're in good hands. Below is a checklist of all the things first-time voters like you (and I) need to know before hitting the polls.

If you've been getting your driver's license or state ID, chances are you might have registered to vote. Keep in mind that you are only able to vote in the state in which you registered. If you're unsure whether you are registered in Illinois, you can check on the Illinois State Board of Elections' website in less than 15 seconds (I timed myself).

If you're not registered to vote (in Illinois) yet, no worries! Because of same-day registration, you can register to vote up until and on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4. To register, you will need to bring "two forms of identification with at least one showing your current residence address." (Illinois State Board of Elections)

If you are not from Illinois and would like to take part in your home state's election, has a list of the Board of Elections websites for every state. Voter registration laws and voting requirements vary from state to state, so it's important that you do your research before November 4.

Are you like me? Being a first-time voter, I wasn't aware that that every registered voter is assigned a polling location based on their home address. Again, the Illinois State Board of Elections' website is a great resource. Just enter your first and last name along with your zip code to find out where you need to go to vote on Nov. 4th. (It shouldn't be too far from where you live.)

If you'd like to vote early, you can do that until 7 p.m. Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, special early voting locations open at 9 a.m. Check your county clerk or city clerk's website for early voting locations. (You do not go to your Election Day polling location too early vote. Many city halls and county offices have early voting available.) Early voting locations will close at 5 p.m. Saturday and at 4 p.m. Sunday. On Election Day (Tuesday, November 4), regular polling locations will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The moral of the story: no matter what your schedule is, there is plenty of time left for you to cast your ballot.

Listed below are the valid forms of ID voters can use, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, so make sure you have at least one of the bulleted items with you. Other than that, bring yourself and you're set to go.

  • A current and valid photo identification
  • A utility bill
  • A bank statement
  • A government check
  • A paycheck
  • A lease or contract for residence
  • A student ID & mail addressed to voter's residence
  • A government document

Voting is hard, even if it's not your first time. Whether it be your busy work schedule or your undergrad course-load that has prevented you from keeping up with the election coverage thus far, I hope you'll check out Reboot's Election Scorecard. It's a great way to familiarize yourself with the candidates' stances on the different topics important to you. Let's be honest, the less-than-true advertisements probably are not your best source of information.

If this is your first time participating in the democratic process, don't be afraid to celebrate a little. Be sure to grab an "I Voted" sticker or button and capture the moment with a picture.

You're all set! Now you just need to figure out who you're going to vote for. Take this quiz at Reboot Illinois to see if you're ready to vote.

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