How to Make Your Voice Heard
What can you do to prepare to vote?
Before you vote, you're going to want to know who you're voting for. Look at local candidates and the issues they're fighting for. Make sure they're running in your district or state, otherwise you won't be able to vote for them. Chances are no candidate will match your beliefs exactly. If you're conflicted, look for the issues and programs you're most passionate about and vote for the candidate that best represents you in those areas. For instance, if you're head of house in a low income family, you probably don't want to vote for the candidate trying to cuthe SNAP and Medicare; if you're a single, middle class worker, you probably don't want to vote for the person threatening the job market. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons of each candidate. Maybe you don't agree with marijuana being legalized, but would it be worth it to block marijuana and go with the candidate that's giving money to the nuclear power plant near your house? That's for you to decide.
You've found your candidate, but only one vote won't get them elected. You can campaign for them in your free time. Go to local events and talk about the issues you're passionate about, and talk about how your candidate says they'll fix them. Talk to your friends about the current candidates and offer to car pool to the voting booth. They might go with your candidate, and they might not. That doesn't mean their voices shouldn't be heard though.
How do you vote?
Everyone in the United States knows what voting is, but a big issue is that a lot of people don't know how voting works or what it takes for a vote to count. It's one of the things that should be mandatory in high school, but often isn't taught at all. In my high-school, we briefly covered what it takes to run for president, how presidents can be impeached, and how laws are passed. We didn't learn how to vote, what process our votes go through, or how votes are counted.
It seems simple enough. You vote, the vote is counted by computer, and the person who gets the most votes wins. There'should a lot more to it than that though.
First, you have to register to vote. You can do this online, or go out and get a paper from the DMV. Fill out the form with your current registered adress. If your current adress isn't the same as the adress you're living at, you'll have to grab a change of adress form from the post office first. The reason for this is to determine which voting district you live in.
After you register, you have to find the nearest polling booth. You cannot go to polls outside of your district to vote, so you'll have to learn the closest place to vote in your district. If you've moved outside that district and haven't re-registered with your new adress, you will have to vote in your old district, or you may not be able to vote at all.
When you find the right polling booth, you'll likely have to wait in line. During the presidential election especially, voting places often aren't equipped to handle how many people show up. The wait can be thirty minutes to an hour or more. Bring bottled water (and a folding chair if you have trouble standing for extended periods), as the 2016 election line at my local booth was so long it stretched outside the building. After all you've already done, waiting should be the easy part. Then cast your vote.
This is only the first step of making your voice heard, but it's honestly the hardest. Don't be discouraged if your candidate doesn't win, there will always be next time.
What can you do after you vote?
Do yourself a favor and have a small "I Voted" party with your friends. It'll be nice to take a load off and just appreciate what you've done so far, but that's not where this is going to end. You have to keep going to get your voice heard.
Keep campaigning. Don't stop even if your candidate gets elected. Go to town hall meetings, go to school board meetings, and keep talking about these issues. Issues don't go away if you stop talking about them. Call your elected officials and make sure they know you're still passionate about these things and that you won't vote for them again if they don't get to work. Its going to take a lot of effort, but if you want to see change, you have to be willing to go the extra mile.
You can do it. I'd do anything for my daughter, and this is no exception. If you don't have kids, do it for yourself or your parents or your significant other. Everyone reaps the benefits of what you do today. Chances are you've already budgeted every hour you have in the day to make sure you can do everything, so why not squeeze in another hour to make a better world?