An Election Day primer – National Consumers League

By Jacob Markey, LifeSmarts Summer 2010 Intern

November is finally here, and LifeSmarts is, appropriately, focusing on topics in Consumer Rights and Responsibilities! As a political science major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, very few moments get me as excited as election night — watching the polls come in and finding out the winners (especially if the people I vote for win).

Tuesday, November 7 is Election Day, one of the most important days of the year for both the short and long-term state of the country. Voting is one of the most important actions a citizen can take in a democracy. By voting, you can have your say in who is elected, the direction of the local, state or national government, and what could potentially be accomplished in the future. In honor of Election Day, I think a blog post about elections and voting rights will be fun.

The upcoming election is what is known as a midterm election, meaning the President is not up for re-election (his election will be in 2012). Even with the President’s office absent from the ballot, there are still many important races happening across the country. If you are a member of the House of Representatives, you certainly are up for re-election next month, as all House members have terms of two years. The terms for members of the Senate are for six years, but they are staggered so that, on average, one-third of the members are up for re-election during each election cycle. This helps to prevent the likelihood of the same amount of turnover as in the House.

Additionally, in most states there are gubernatorial elections and countless races for senators and representatives. There are numerous local races and many other issues up for referendum in various states.

Not just anyone can vote. Knowledgeable LifeSmarts participants know that there are some important criteria you must meet in order to vote, including:

  • Thanks to the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, if you are at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to vote.
  • There is no uniform method of voting. Each state runs elections slightly differently and has their own rules. These include hours the polls are open, how you can register, and locations where you may vote.
  • You don’t necessarily have to be in your home state on Election Day to vote. Through absentee voting, you can send in your choices ahead of time. So, if you are out of town on vacation, for work, school, or some other reason, you can use this method to still ensure your vote is counted.

There is so much information about the electoral system. If you are interested in more information about both the upcoming election the electoral process, I recommend you check out any major news site and/or your local paper. They have detailed information that will help to explain much more about American politics and our country’s political system.

I hope you are all as excited as I am about Election Day. If you are eligible to vote on November 7, go out and vote!