The questions and answers presented below have been taken from the “Voter Resource Guide” produced by “Focus on the Family” and the Family Research Council. CLICK HERE for more information.
Elections
Voting is a simple act with a significant impact. Voting is the way that “we the people” elect individuals who will lead our government, make our laws, and protect our freedoms. It is also one of the ways Citizen Christians can function as salt and light to bring about change in our nation. Voting is a privilege that many people in other parts of the world can only dream about. Voting is a great privilege, but it is also a great responsibility. Voting is foundational to our form of government, and it is inexcusable for Christians not to obey the command of Christ to participate in government by voting (see Matt. 22:21).
A primary is a preliminary election, where voters go to the polls to select a candidate for office. The winner of each parties primaries then face off. It’s kind of like the playoffs in football. Win and you advance to the next level. Primaries were first used back in the mid-1800’s. They were created in an effort to cut down on fraud by giving the power directly to voters instead of party bosses. By the early 20th century, primaries were used for statewide and presidential elections as well. A primary can be nonpartisan, open and closed. A nonpartisan primary is where candidates are not listed by party affiliation. They are mainly used in local and judicial elections. In an open primary any registered voter of any party can vote on all candidates. In a closed primary only registered party members may vote for the party’s slate of candidates. Only nine states have open primaries.
A caucus is a primary that is limited to registered party members only. Members vote for delegates to the county and state conventions at small party meetings across the state. Those delegates then select representatives to go the national party convention. The delegates who go to the national convention cast the actual votes for the candidates they want to run for office. Only 14 states hold presidential caucuses instead of primaries. Some states have recently moved to a caucus system from a primary system to save money, as fewer voters take part in caucuses.
The president and vice president of the United States are not elected by popular vote, but by the electoral college—a system devised by the founding fathers in the Constitution. When people cast their votes, they’re actually voting for party slates of electors pledged to the candidates. Generally, the candidate who wins the most number of popular votes in a state wins the state’s entire slate of electoral votes. The candidate with the majority of electoral votes— at least 270 out of 538 possible—wins. Each state is allotted as many electors as it has members in Congress. States with larger populations have more electoral votes. So it is possible to win the popular vote but not the presidency. That actually happened in the 2000 Presidential Election. The electors are chosen by a variety of methods according to state—including through primaries, party conventions and party organizations. If no candidate wins a majority of the electoral votes, the House of Representatives has to decide the presidential election. Don’t laugh. After the 2000 election, we know that anything could happen!
A convention is an official gathering of party representatives to choose their candidates for office. National party conventions are held the summer before elections in November. At these conventions, delegates from each state cast votes for candidates. The delegates are chosen at state primaries and caucuses. Each state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the various U.S. Territories, is allowed a certain number of delegates that reflects the size of the state’s population.
Voter Registration
It depends on your state. However, it is always a good idea to bring ID to your polling place on Election Day.
No. The only cases in which you would need to re-register would be if you moved, changed your name, or wished to change your party affiliation.
You cannot register to vote in two places at the same time. In this case, you would have to choose a state and only register and vote in that state.
Yes. Each state has its own unique guidelines.
No, you cannot sign the voter registration form for anyone else, even if that person is your spouse. However, you may take the Voter Registration Form and give it to other people to fill out and sign, and you may deliver or mail in signed forms for others. Again, you cannot sign the Voter Registration Form for anyone but yourself.
Yes. You can register to vote if your sentence is complete and your civil rights have been restored.
No. You must be a United States citizen in order to vote.
Yes. You can register to vote in the state and/or county where you are going to school. However, remember that you can only register in the state in which you have established official residency.
Yes. However, you must provide an address where you receive your mail, so that your voting precinct can be determined and so you can receive your registration card. Some voter registration forms provide a section for homeless people.
No. You should use your full legal name—the same name you use when you sign legal documents.
No. You must register to vote using your current residential address. You cannot register using a business address, a former address, or the address of a piece of property you own. You must register where you live.
Again, simply re-register and choose the party affiliation you desire.
No. It is not necessary to choose a political party when you register. Some states do have “closed” primary elections that only allow those registered as Republican or Democrat to vote in their party’s primary elections. In some states, independents and those who choose “no party affiliation” cannot vote in primary elections.
After you register to vote, you will be sent a Voter Registration ID Card. It will have the name and address of your polling place on it. Usually, this location is near your home. You can only vote at that specific location on Election Day. If you will not be able to make it to that location on Election Day, you must request an absentee ballot in advance. Other polling places are often made available during early voting. Please note, however, that answers to specific questions may vary from state to state.
When you can expect to receive your Voter Registration Card varies. To be safe, count on it taking 4 6 weeks to arrive in the mail.
Usually, your local newspaper will print a sample ballot before Election Day.
This varies from state to state, but generally, the polls are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
Absentee Ballots
Absentee ballots allow individuals who cannot get to their voting locations on Election Day to cast their votes by mail. Absentee ballots are useful for individuals who are traveling or who will be out of the area on Election Day. International Business people, College students, Vacationers, etc. who are going to be providentially hindered from being near their established place of residence on Election Day should request an absentee ballot and vote.
You may request an absentee ballot by contacting your Supervisor of Elections. Remember, it is important to request an absentee ballot early, so you have plenty of time to receive it, vote, and get it back to the elections office by your state’s deadline (check www.fec.gov or www.nass.org for these dates).