Preparing for your first vote

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Preparing for your first vote

Practical tips for the 2024 presidential election

July 10, 2024 -

Young man voting at booth for the first time during election. By Drazen/stock.adobe.com

Young man voting at booth for the first time during election. By Drazen/stock.adobe.com

Young man voting at booth for the first time during election. By Drazen/stock.adobe.com

If the 2024 presidential election is going to be your first time voting, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. Who can blame you?

This may be the most contentious election in our nation’s history. That makes the weight of responsibility for us as voters feel heavy.

So, are you ready for your first trip to the ballot box? Do you have a candidate selected? Or, are you feeling a little lost? If you answered yes to that last question, you’re most certainly not alone.

In fact, an estimated 8 million Americans will be aging into voter eligibility and over 40 million voters will be from Gen Z. And another 3.5 million adults have become naturalized citizens since the 2020 election. So suffice it to say that you’ll be alongside many others making their inaugural trek to the polls.

Let’s dive into what you can do to walk into the voting booth with confidence ready to proudly sport an “I Voted” sticker.

How should you prepare? Seven practical steps

1. Stick to Biblical truths and your personal convictions, but remain open minded.

On some topics, it’s good to have hardline stances. God has laid out clear guidelines for us in scripture related to many issues at the center of this year’s election(s).

But what about all the issues for which the Bible doesn’t have direct answers?

Ponder a vast array of perspectives. Politicians play a game of finding what voters believe will best improve their lives and then make those points central to their campaign regardless of whether public opinion is right or wrong on the subject.

And since most people tend to form opinions based on how a policy will impact them, factors like religion, lifestyle, ethnicity, education, career, family, home, geographic location, economic status etc often play a deciding role in how people see an issue.

So make an effort to find opposing voices and understand “the why” behind each side’s stances. Digest news, interviews, and commentary from voices with different backgrounds than yourself.

Practical Tip: Initiate conversations with family, friends, and co-workers of varying backgrounds and world views. If you’re unsure about issues like immigration, foreign policy, healthcare, education, etc., ask questions and prayerfully listen to what people have to say. If something doesn’t make sense, though, don’t be afraid to ask followup questions as well.

But always remain civil, approaching tricky subjects with humility and genuine curiosity. You might just find unexpected common ground.

 

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2. Find news publishers and sources you trust.

Every news network, newspaper, and now social media news personality will be giving this election their full energy to fight for your attention. That means the normal rules of engagement in media are out the window for the next few months.

Be careful what you hear or read. Vet the source and apply a sense of suspicion to anything that doesn’t seem right. Did that post come from a respected outlet or journalist? Was a soundbite of a candidate edited to make them look bad (or good)? Does that popular TikToker’s viral post about a critical issue have any credibility?

I’d also encourage you to identify a diverse set of sources. Do your best to avoid information gathering from an “echo-chamber,” i.e. only absorbing right or left-wing content.

Practical Tip: Find five news sources. Explore their websites, follow them on social media or download their app and sign up for their push notifications. Make sure to choose outlets from both sides of the aisle to get the full story on every headline.

3. Listen to podcasts 🎧

These long-form discussions often go much deeper into the issues than TV interviews or edited clips online. Podcasts serve as primary spots for candidates and political pundits to dive into policies and messaging.

Find shows or episodes with candidates themselves being interviewed, or with political commentators who have solid knowledge on the political environment.

It’s okay to listen to shows that may have totally different stances on issues than yourself. This will open up your mind to why many of your fellow Americans are considering voting opposite of you. Even if it just serves to reinforce your beliefs, you’re still broadening your scope of perception.

Practical Tip: Listen to the Denison Forum Podcast for biblical discussions on hard hitting political and cultural topics. Also browse this list of the top political podcasts. Find a few from different sides of the aisle that stand out to you and give them a listen.

4. Follow politics on social media

Social media can be a great place to gather loads of information from many different sources in one location.

Candidates often speak openly and candidly on their social accounts. You can see a raw version of a candidate and know what message they are sending without even having to go to a news source.

Plus journalists, news publishers and political influencers are constantly pushing out information on social media…particularly on X (formerly Twitter), but increasingly on Instagram and TikTok as well.

But you have to be careful. Avoid any online spats. Those are public and can turn ugly fast and political fights are truly not worth damaged relationships. Not to mention, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll change someone’s mind in a comment section.

Practical Tip: Follow Denison Forum on X or Facebook for daily updates on top political stories.

5. Educate yourself on the candidate’s policies.

What are the candidate’s main visions for their prospective term in office? Where do they land on the issues that matter most to you?

It’s best to hear an agenda directly from the candidate with no media spin. This will help you to make up your mind on your own and stand firm behind your final decision.

Campaign websites are a great starting place. Here candidates will share their vision and policies on key issues, offering you the opportunity to parse through details on what matters most to you.

But the best way to truly grasp a candidate’s agenda is to hear it directly from their mouth, with no editing. This happens in debates, speeches, press briefings and sit down TV or podcast interviews… the whole thing, not just out of context clips on social media.

And don’t assume that what a candidate used to believe is what they’re promising for the upcoming elections. Policies change, and you’re voting for who will best represent you across the coming years rather than in the past. So even if you think you’re aware of what a candidate believes, it’s worth checking to make sure that’s still the case.

Practical Tip: See where candidates stand on primary issues in one location on USA Today’s Voter Guide.

6. Watch or attend debates

Presidential debates are cultural events, drawing massive viewership ratings that stimulate conversations (and memes) for weeks. But they’re more than just a source of entertainment.

Debates offer you the opportunity to hear opposing rationales from anyone seeking office in local and national elections. You’ll get a glimpse of how they interact with each other, moderators, crowds, cameras, and even you as a citizen while they work to earn your vote.

And though we’ll only have a handful of presidential debates, there will be thousands of other debates this year across all levels of government spanning the entire nation.

When you show up to vote in November, it won’t just be for the executive branch. You’ll also have down ballot votes to cast for congress and other state and local government positions with many hosting debates that can be attended in person or streamed online.

If you can’t tune into a debate, many news outlets will publish summaries and highlight the key takeaways from the showdowns.

Practical Tip: Watch the remaining Presidential and Vice Presidential debates and then wade through analysis published by news outlets in the subsequent days.

7. Parents, let your young adults decide for themselves

If you’re a parent to a first-time voter, you may be tempted to influence them to vote like you.

But actually the best thing you can do is simply motivate them to vote, reinforcing that their voice matters.

This will encourage them to ask you questions. There’s a good chance your kids (even the ones who aren’t old enough to vote yet) want to know your opinions on key issues!

Practical Tip: Talk to your kids about politics and offer wisdom, but avoid outright suggestions on how they should vote. Open the floor for civil discussions offering a safe space for everyone to speak their mind and ask questions.

Exercise your freedoms

Christians represent God above any political party or candidate. Be weary of the temptation to let your political beliefs become so loud that it drowns out your public walk with Christ.

We live in a free country, but ultimately our freedom is found in Jesus (Galatians 5:1). Pray about how the Lord may be leading you to vote, or even get involved in an election.

Use your giftings and passions as God directs. This could include volunteering on a campaign, or movement. There are many non-profit organizations that coordinate volunteer opportunities to increase knowledge and awareness for their specific causes. Go be a door knocker, sign holder, phone caller, or general conversation starter.

But ultimately the one thing everyone reading this should do is vote. We are blessed to live in a democracy that affords us the right to have a voice in government representation. Now it’s up to you to take advantage of your voting rights by praying, researching, and casting your ballot with confidence this November.


Looking for a trustworthy news source to guide you through the election season? Subscribe to Denison Forum. We’re a non-partisan ministry that seeks to equip believers in understanding the top news and culture stories of the day. We’ll send yu The Daily Article every weekday morning.

Checkout all of our 2024 election related articles and podcasts here!

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