The race for the 2020 presidential election is well underway as more than 20 democrats run for a chance to campaign opposite President Donald Trump. With so many names that the debates are split into two-night affairs, it’s only natural that the average voter feels a sense of dread when thinking on how to vote in the upcoming primaries, where the nation’s Democrats choose a candidate. But never fear, there are a few easy ways to start gearing up for what’s going to be a long, difficult trek to November 2020.
It’s especially imperative for college-aged individuals to get more involved in politics with the mammoth election happening in more than a year’s time. Individuals aged 18-24 are consistently the least active voters. Any of the social justice and advocacy work favored by individuals in these age groups must be supplemented by voting as much as possible — think midterm and local elections.
To get you prepared for the ups and downs of what will likely prove to be a historic election, start taking the following measures.
Know Your Current Events
In the digital age, the news cycle is truly 24 hours long. Every second of every day brings a new development on a local, state, national or international news piece. One of the biggest parts of being an informed voter is knowing as much as you can about the world around you, and specifically about the political geography of your home country.
In today’s digital times, there are several ways to stay informed. Twitter can be used as a resource for news by following reputable news agencies’ accounts. Your phone’s app store is another resource as news agencies develop their own apps to reach a broader readership and deliver up to date alerts and breaking news.
The Associated Press, AP for short, is an extremely well-reputed newswire agency that has a Twitter account and app. The app sends the user alerts for developments on popular stories and breaking news. As a newswire, many of the most well-known news agencies use the stories and information reported by the Associated Press to supplement their coverage, especially of breaking news.
Reuters is another dependable, international newswire agency that reports on Twitter and through an app. Because Reuter’s news has an international focus, there’s a broader range of stories that the agency tweets about regularly. Reuter’s app has the added bonus of video content. For users who like to feel like they’re watching the news, Reuter’s has digestible video segments about the day’s top headlines.
There are plenty of other news agencies that have Twitter accounts or apps that report the news for free. Some have a more political focus, such as Politico. No matter the focus of your chosen news app or apps, staying up to date with national news is an extremely important part of being an informed voter for the upcoming 2020 election.
Watch the Debates
Throughout the campaign process, institutions such as NBC or CNN host and broadcast debates amongst candidates of the same party competing for presidential candidacy and when the candidates have been chosen, between the two presidential candidates.
The traditional way of watching these debates is on television, but not all college students have access to cable from their dorms. The rise in popularity of streaming has also made it necessary for the hosts of the debates to make them available on platforms other than traditional cable TV.
Usually the agency hosting the debate will make it available to watch on their own platforms. When NBC hosted the first Democratic debate, it was available to watch not only on TV on NBC and MSNBC, but also on the NBC News app and streamed over Twitter from their @NBCNews account. When CNN hosted the second Democratic debate, it was available on CNN.com and the CNN app, in addition to being broadcasted on TV on CNN.
There are a few streaming services such as YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV and DirecTV Now that, while not free, if you already have or can get a free trial for, you can use to watch the debates. However you do it, watching the debates is one of the best and easiest ways to see how each of the candidates compare to each other as they face off on stage for the 2020 election candidacy.
Research the Candidates
Once you’ve made sure you’re well-informed on current events and how the candidates do during the debates, and maybe you’ve chosen a few favorites, it’s time to research candidates. The truth is, people can represent themselves in ways that will make them seem likable, popular and more progressive or even conservative than they want to be publicly known. A good way to circumvent the misrepresentation that these candidates might employ to get their name on that November 2020 election ballot is by researching their speeches, public positions and more on a specific, individual level.
A useful resource that helps to start looking at candidates on an individual level is with the quiz at ISideWith.com. By answering a long series of political questions, ISideWith can tell you which party the candidate affiliates with and which candidates running for office best align with you based on your answers. Once you get a few favorite candidates from the debates and the ISideWith quiz, you can start the rest of your research by visiting each candidate’s campaign website, where they go into detail about their public stances, campaign proposals and more.
Beyond just taking candidates at their own word, it’s important to do more in-depth searches on candidates by seeing their voting records. A politician’s voting record in Congress, or any other legislative body if they have never held office at the federal level, is public. Congress.gov gives visitors voting records on specific bills, and any other information on them. Congress.gov also has a page dedicated to searching state legislative websites, so you can see the bills being voted in your state legislature.
While Congress.gov is a useful resource, Vote Smart is the easiest way to research the voting records of individual candidates. Vote Smart is a nonprofit website similar to ISideWith that’s dedicated to making important information available to the public. Visiting their website or calling 1-888-vote-smart gives you the opportunity to use the hours of research that workers and volunteers put into rounding up politicians’ profiles. Politicians’ profiles are made up of their biographical information, voting records, public positions, funding information and more.
It’s difficult for the voices of a demographic to be heard when they’re not going through the avenues to make them heard. If college-aged individuals want politicians to pay attention to the issues that they care about, it’s time to vote like it. The only way to vote is as an informed, well-prepared voter, and you can use the aforementioned measures to be the best-informed voter in the upcoming 2020 election and the primaries that’ll come before it.