Even if you've never voted despite being a qualified voter, it’s okay. You can start now.
First, let’s get you registered
Your town will have a voter registration office or you can contact your local League of Women Voters--they help all eligible voters, not just women. Here’s an official government site to find out the particulars of your state. There are often voter registration tables at community events, concerts, and local fairs all year round to make it even easier.
Second, let’s get you informed
How to find your Representatives/Senators and track issues that are important to you. This is a non-government site devoted to transparency in government. Created in 2004, govtrack is the oldest website devoted to transparency and has a good history of being accurate and non-partisan. Just pick a few key things that are the most important to you---that really affect your life--the “bread and butter” issues that count. Vague patriotic terms and moral soundbites disguised as issues are hard to legislate or measure so it’s easy for a candidate to seem like they are saying something when they really aren’t. See how they are really voting on issues you care about.
There are plenty of other sources to get information as well, just always ask yourself, who is controlling this narrative and what side am I not hearing? Just like the movie “Rashomon” by Akira Kurosawa, people will often tell the narrative in a way that benefits them and makes them look better than they are. You might never get a clear answer of exactly what happened but you can see the character of each person as they tell the story. Moderation doesn’t get politicians elected; fear and anger does, so remember that many campaigns are designed to make you vote with your emotions rather than what’s in your actual best interest.
All those “isms” of Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Libertarianism have been used as scare words for at least 100 years. Women getting the vote, like every big change, was supposed to both destroy America and save it. Something in the middle of those two extremes happened. Don’t be scared of buzzwords, look at policies, and what would actually change, and then decide.
Finally, let’s get you motivated to go to the polls--even if you don’t like either candidate
Just like today, women of the past fell on different sides of the suffrage question and then just as now there was a “silent majority” that both sides tried to claim was on their side of the political issue. It is classic for both political extremes to paint the other side as a small number of malcontents and that “most Americans” agree with their particular point of view. Most Americans fall in the middle of the extremes can get apathetic about voting because they neither feel heard or represented.
The “Silent Majority” gets used as a pawn by both sides. Voting is power. Don’t give up your power so that someone you disagree with can use your lack of engagement as proof of agreement. Neither side will be perfect fit but when it comes to election day, choose the one most aligned with your core values. Because if you don’t choose, a candidate will be chosen for you and it might be the one you really don’t like. The election belongs to those who show up and vote.
Democracy is an anomaly in the whole of human history. Most governments have been monarchies, dictatorships, plutocracies (ruled by the wealthiest class), etc. Even with the current flaws in our system, peacefully transferring how a country is led by majority rules is completely against how “power” works, and yet our grand experiment of Democracy has lasted almost 250 years. However, Democracy is not a permanent state.
Democracy can only exist if we protect and nurture it by being involved. Valuing the vote and protecting the right of all citizens to vote--even those we disagree with--is the most patriotic thing an American can do.