2012 presidential election: How to begin registering and researching who to vote for in the November election

Students registering to vote

Students registering to vote (Photo by the Knight Foundation)

The presidential election can be confusing, especially if you only catch the headlines while running on the treadmill at the gym like I do. I’m willing to bet many of you are like me, a college student who hasn’t had much time — or energy — to put into doing your own research on who’s running this year, right? Well, now that summer has arrived and you have a spare minute to breathe, here are some ways to get in the know about politics so you can rock the vote in the November 6 election!

First things first

You’ll want to be sure you are registered to vote in your current state with your current address. This can be confusing if you live away from home for school. If you’re going to be living on or near campus (rather than at your parents’ house) on Election Day, register to vote with your school address. If you’re not sure what your situation will be, visit Election Land, sponsored by the Rock the Vote campaign, and click on your state. You can post a question to the Q&A “Voting as a Student” section and an expert will answer.

CampusVoteProject.org, which is designed to “help college students work with administrators and local election officials to make the process of voting easier and overcome barriers students often face to voting that students often mention such as residency laws, registration deadlines and strict voter ID requirements,” is another great source for student voters.

And, according to an article fore Slate titled, “In Washington, You Can Register to Vote on Facebook. Could Voter Registration Go Viral?,” registering to vote on Facebook may even be an upcoming trend in politics.

The candidates — what they really stand for

In addition to President Barack Obama who’s running for re-election on the Democratic ballot, the leading man for the Republican side is Mitt Romney. While Ron Paul has not yet formally stepped down, Romney has secured the required amount of delegates and will soon be choosing his running mate.

To compare the statistics and ideals of these candidates, visit FindTheData and view the following for each candidate side-by-side:

  • Key details
  • Economic issues
  • Stances
  • Foreign affairs
  • Domestic issues
  • Gallup Poll preference percentage
  • Endorsement

It can be daunting trying to keep up with each candidate’s stances on issues, and I find it’s best to look at a non-biased source like those on FindTheData. It’s also a good idea to get the news straight from the horse’s mouth by visiting each candidate’s official page. That way you won’t have to guess if quotes have been taken out of context or if what you’re reading is actually true.

  • MittRomney.com
  • BarackObama.com

Learn what matters to you

As student voters, there are certain issues we should be interested in, right? There are also issues that may or may not be of any importance to us, and that’s okay, too. The major thing to keep in mind is to make a list of issues that are important to you and then research the candidates based on those issues. If you’re in med school and want to focus on research, you may want to look up each candidate’s stance on stem cell research. If you’re going into education, you may want to see what the candidate’s stance on tenure and retirement plans are or whether he supports unions. Does this mean you vote for a candidate based on just one issue that may be important to you? Not necessarily, but it’s a good starting point when deciding who you’ll support.

Now that you’ve got the basics of how to search for more information, you’ve got about three months to do your research — just try not to get too discouraged by all the negative ads being aired. According to Los Angeles Times article “Negative ads increase dramatically during 2012 presidential election,” 70% of the total ads this year are negative.


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