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How to be an Informed Voter

An “informed voter” is a voter that is knowledgeable about candidates, policies, voting requirements and timeframes, and the American government system as a whole. Though it would be nice to think that everyone is an informed voter, some Americans simply choose candidates  based on political party rather than researching their specific political opinions. However, this approach will not always lead you to the best decision. The best way to use your right to vote is to make informed decisions about who exactly you vote for.

by Ruby T., TeenWell Ambassador

To understand politics, it’s important to know a few key positions:

  • You should know who the president, vice president, speaker of the house, the chief justice, and the justices of the supreme court are. 
  • You should know who the governor and senators of your state are and who represents your district in the House of Representatives. 
  • Many decisions that affect your everyday life are decided locally, so you should also know who your mayor is. 

You can find these government officials at the below websites:

You can usually find your governor and mayor by searching for the official website for your state and city. These websites usually end in .gov. 

To figure out who your representative is, you can go to the government website below and enter your zip code. 

  • It is important to do plenty of research about your district representative, as they are voting for your entire district in the House of Representatives. 
  • Each running or elected official will have a website where they will lay out their political values and what they hope to achieve in the position. 
  • https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

You should understand the basics of the two party system in America. Though there are additional sub-parties, the two main political parties in America are the Democratic and Republican parties. Fully understanding these parties requires research. 

Further research can be done on reputable websites like those linked below. To get more specific to exactly where you live, you can search the Democratic and Republican party of your state. You can also check out the page on being an informed voter, which will explain how to figure out your political affiliation and give you more specific information on informed voting. 

To understand where you stand politically, start by doing some research on the Democratic Party (the left) and the Republican Party (the right). These are the two biggest parties in American politics, and most people lean either Republican or Democratic. Usually this preliminary research will help you figure out a general sense of where you fall on the spectrum, but you may also be able to figure  out what political party is most specific to your beliefs by taking  a political alignment test, such as the one  below. It is very possible that you will lean more Democratic on some issues and more Republican on others, but the main idea is that you figure out what issues are more important to you and decide where you lean on those issues. 

If you want to be an informed voter, it’s very important that you educate yourself on what political candidates are advocating for. You should not just vote for someone based on what political party they belong to. Rather, you should do some research on their specific values. Here are a couple ways you can do that:

  • Every politician should have a website where they outline their values and political positions. To find these websites, just search the name of the politician. Remember that this is the personal website of a candidate, so they are trying to sell you on their position. Be aware of bias. 
  • Research the history of the candidate. Try and figure out where they leaned politically in past years and how their opinions have changed over time. 
  • Be sure you are researching on unbiased websites. If you know that a news outlet leans a certain way politically, don’t use it to find unbiased research on candidates.

An important part of continuing to be an educated voter is staying informed of the latest news and knowing what the big news stories are each day. 

  • An easy way to stay up-to-date on news is to set up news alerts on your phone. That way, you will get a notification when a news story drops. If nothing else, you can read the headline and get a general idea of what the story is about. 
  • Listen to podcasts. Consider listening to news podcasts occasionally instead of listening to music or watching TV.
  • When you wake up in the morning, quickly read over the news alerts of the day. Having this routine is a great way to keep up with current events. 
  • Follow news accounts on social media. As you’re scrolling through your feed, you’ll get a glance at news alerts.