The Everygirl’s Guide to the 2012 Elections: Part 1

  • Contributing Political Editor:: Carrie Pastor
  • Graphics:: Alaina Kaczmarski

Election Day 2012 (Tuesday, November 6) will be here before we know it and we put together a helpful guide for you to prepare for the polls and exercise your rights.

The decisions made on Election Day will affect all of us at some point.  While that may seem like a very simple statement, the truth is, many Americans do not vote.  Decisions about Social Security policy can affect not only how much money is taken out of your paychecks to fund the program, but also, how much money you may receive when you’re eligible to collect Social Security.  The decisions made about interest rates and school loans will affect most of us.  The decisions made about tax policies will affect all of us each tax season.  The decisions about foreign policy affect us as a nation, and for some of us, directly affect those we know whom serve in the military.

You don’t have to be a policy junkie to care about voting in this or any other election.  While you may not be paying attention to the intricacies occurring hourly in Washington DC, you of course deeply care about laws that directly affect yourself and your loved ones.  This is the reason to vote!  So this year, look out for yourself, your loved ones, and your country; educate yourself and vote!

Registering to Vote

Requirements: In most states you must be 18 years of age and a citizen of the United States, but some states have their own residency requirements.  If you are unsure of your state’s requirements, check out the United States Election Assistance Commission website.  Click on your state on the map and you’ll be well on your way to learning your state’s voting requirements.

Deadlines: Each state has its own voter registration deadlines prior to Election Day.  Check out your state’s deadline here.

How to Register
If you are a resident of the United States: Most states allow you to register to vote by mail using the National Mail Voter Register form.  If your name or address has changed, or if you would like to register with a political party, you may also use this form to update your voter information.

If you are an American citizen living abroad or a member of the military/military family member abroad: The Federal Voting Assistance Program makes voting a breeze.  Follow the preceding link for a step-by-step guide, specific to your situation.  You will be able to register to vote, vote, and track your ballot – all online.

Absentee Voting
If you would like to vote by absentee ballot, visit your state’s Secretary of State website to find absentee voting policies and important dates.

Early Voting
If you are already registered to vote and ready to vote today, you may be able to do so in person!  Early voting has already begun in some states.  The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College has great, non-partisan information, including this early voting calendar.

Where to Vote
Your state’s Secretary of State website will lead you to your polling place options, to the nearest polling place to you, and provide the times the polls will be open on Election Day.

“Swing States,” say what?

If you have been watching the news lately, you’ve probably heard something about “swing states” (also known as “battleground states,” and “purple” states).  These are states that have not followed a specific pattern of supporting one party regularly; rather, these states seem to “swing” back and forth between the parties.

Because they are seemingly up for grabs, you can expect to see President Obama and Governor Romney visiting these states frequently in the days leading up to the election.  Is your state considered a “swing” state for 2012?  Here are the commonly viewed “swing” states of this election: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin.*

Since the candidates cannot possibly meet every voter in each state, televised debates are the next best thing.  You may think of televised debates as the programs that take the time slots of your favorite shows a few times every four years, but they have been thought to be important in some elections.

For example, the first televised presidential debate took place in Chicago between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960.  Nixon decided against makeup for the television cameras – a silly decision in hindsight when you’re going up against the young and dashing JFK.  Many believe that JFK’s youthful looks made him appear more appealing than Nixon.  JFK was considered to have “won” the debate, and later won the election.

History will be the judge of the importance of the 2012 presidential debates, but make sure you’re a part of it! Ensure you’re informed and gather friends to watch the debates.

Debate Details

Wednesday, October 3 – Presidential Debate #1

  • Time: 9pm EDT
  • Location: University of Denver, Colorado
  • Topic: Domestic policy
  • Moderator: Jim Lehrer
    • Note: The debates are kicking off in Colorado, a swing state, which could be important.

Thursday, October 11 – Vice Presidential Debate

  • Time: 9pm EDT
  • Location: Centre College, Danville, Kentucky
  • Topics: Foreign and domestic policies
  • Moderator: Martha Raddatz

Tuesday, October 16 – Presidential Debate #2

  • Time: 9pm EDT
  • Location: Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
  • Topic: Town hall meeting*
  • Moderator: Candy Crowley
    • Fun fact: Candy Crowley will be the first female presidential debate moderator in 20 years
    • *A town hall meeting is a format in which members of the audience have the opportunity to ask candidates questions.

Monday, October 22 – Presidential Debate #3

  • Time: 9pm EDT
  • Location: Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida
  • Topic: Foreign policy
  • Moderator: Bob Schieffer
    • Note: Another “swing state” to end the debates.

***Each debate will be 90 minutes and major networks will carry all debates.
* “Swing states” source: Please note “swing states” are updated regularly and may change.

Check back on The Everygirl every morning following the four debates for our own little coffee talk recap, discussion, and debate!

carrie pastor alaina kaczmarski