10 Things to Know About the Election Before Voting

With the end of a presidential term in the near future it is yet again time to elect another. Everyone will pretend to know the issues and we will vow that “This time it will be different,” and everything wrong in our country will be fixed as long as our candidate gets elected. The problem is we don’t know everything that’s the wrong and many of us don’t know much beyond our personal beliefs to make an informed decision. I admit that I don’t know all the issues or the candidate’s stances, I don’t think anyone does. Here are 10 things we should understand better before voting.

1. What Is The Purpose Of a Political Party?

Most of us could say that we are Republican, Democratic, Independent, or another political party, but what does that mean? Well each political party has its own beliefs and their goals are to influence our government to conform to those policies. People join these parties to be among people who share their opinions and to help influence local, state, and government politics towards their side.
What We Actually understand: “My party is right! Obviously you’re misinformed! Let me yell at you until your understand!”

2. What does the president actually do?

Ok so we all know the president is the guy “in charge” and supposedly the leader of the free world, but what does that mean? The president is the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces and he’s responsible for military strategy. However, that is about as far as it goes with congress controlling military spending and regulation.
The president also is in charge of foreign policy, which means that he is responsible for the protection of foreigners in our country and us in foreign countries. He also negotiates treaties with other nations (that must be approved by 2/3 senate).
In the legislative aspect the president must pass any bill Congress has presented before it becomes a law, however congress can veto this by an overriding vote of 2/3. Judicially the president is allowed to nominate federal judges, but these require senate confirmation.
Ultimately the president does have the power to grant pardons and is allowed to withhold state secrets from legal proceedings if they were to harm national security.
What We Actually Know: “Everything wrong with this country happened in the last presidential term and it’s all his fault!” (Repeat phrase every election year).

3. What does the vice president do?

Ok, so the president does have some pretty cool powers. Those must extend to the vice president too right? Wrong. The vice president has many ceremonial roles but other than that he mostly just wanders around the White House looking for stuff to do. Ok so that’s not true, but his only constitutionally prescribed rule other than becoming president should the current one keel over is as president of the senate. I know you’re saying “What the heck that’s a big deal!” Well it is, but he’s only allowed to vote if there’s a tie. Other than that he can preside over daily activities in the senate, but usually selects a president pro tempore who does it for him. In fact the vice president is not assigned to the executive, legislative, or judicial branch. But, hey he can preside over impeachment trials of federal officer (except the president).
What We Actually Know: “Who the heck is the vice president, darn it, I knew his name like ten minutes ago too.”

4. What’s the Electoral College (and how do I apply)?

It’s the 538 people who officially elect the president. The president cannot win the presidency if he doesn’t have the majority vote for the Electoral College. Each state is assigned representatives based on population and they vote for their state.
What we actually know:
“I don’t like that electoral college thing-y, it’s really hard to get into, I can’t even find where to apply.”

5. Why do they have the Democratic National Convention?

Technically the DNC is to officially nominate the party’s choice for presidential candidate. This happens, but overall much of the convention is to unify the party and promote their stance on issues. Historically there have also been mid-term conventions during the middle of a presidential term to rally the party and keep them faithful when support waned.
What We Actually Know:
“I’m pretty sure the president went to that right? He’s a democrat from what I’m told.”

6. Why do they have the republican national convention?

For the same reasons the democrats have theirs, except there have not been mid-term conventions. The RNC also serves to adopt the party platform and rules for the current election cycle. There have also been protests at the RNC (as well as the DNC) in which protestors of the opposing party were regulated to “free speech zones” and were not accessible to delegates.
What we actually know:
“Clint Eastwood totally talked to an empty chair at that thing, I know because I saw the meme.”

7. What does voting “no” or “yes” on the marriage amendment mean?

The marriage amendment in Minnesota is NOT going to make same-sex marriage legal in Minnesota no matter the outcome. The amendment in question, if approved, will put an amendment in Minnesota’s constitution not allowing same-sex couples to ever marry in the state if it were to be proposed as a law or if it became a national law. Voting yes means that you support not allowing same-sex marriage in the future. Voting no on the amendment means that you either support same-sex marriage now or support it becoming a possibility in the future.
What we actually know:
“Vote yes: Marriage is one man, one woman. Vote no: don’t limit the freedom to marry. Repeat this, but scream them in your head for full effect.

8. Why do we have presidential debates?

Presidential debates are meant to make a candidate’s stance on issues more clear and to create hype for the election and the sponsors of the debate. The debate’s rules are that candidates have 2 minutes to answer a question and the other candidate will be allowed a one minute rebuttal. The moderator is allowed to add 30 seconds to either at their discretion. There are 3 debates between the presidential candidates and 1 debate between the vice presidential candidates. The debates are important to the campaign of the candidate in shaping the image they want to present come election time, especially the image of the vice president and president as a team. They are also a vehicle for the media to drive traffic to their websites or shows.
What we actually know: “Remember when Tina Fey ran as vice president and they aired the debate on SNL, man was she stupid, I mean it’s like she was acting. Oh, wait, that was just the SNL version?”

9. What are red states and blue states?

Red and Blue states were only introduced in 2000 and are merely a way for the country to see which states generally vote for which party. Red states have a history of voting republican or conservative, blue states have a history of voting democratic or liberally. Purple states are called “swing states” and have strong support for both parties.
What we actually know: “I keep seeing these colored maps of the country. I think it means which states have warm and cool weather.”

10. Where do the political parties stand on some of the main issues?

The Republican Party does not support same-sex marriage and believes that taxes for interest, dividends, and capital gains should be eliminated for lower and middle class taxpayers. As for healthcare the republican party has this to say on their official website; “We likewise support the right of parents to consent to medical treatment for their children, including mental health treatment, drug treatment, and treatment involving pregnancy, contraceptives and abortion.” The Democratic Party supports repealing the defense of marriage act and supports equal rights for LGBT couples. The Democratic Party also supports reproductive rights for women and providing tax cuts to small businesses.
What we actually know:
“I have no idea what the official stance is, but your party is WRONG!”

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Rachel Ulfers

Rachel is currently a PSEO student at NHCC during her senior year. She is in DECA, Hoofprint,and enjoys photography and playing with her overbearing yellow lab.

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