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Prepare now for election day

Elections decide the leadership that guides legislation and enforcement of regulations. The right to vote is something many people take for granted, but elsewhere in the world many people have no say with regard to their political leaders, which only emphasizes the importance of participating in the election process whenever you're afforded the opportunity to do so.

The first step to prepare for Election Day is to confirm your eligibility. Age, legal residency and citizenship status are just a few of the factors that may affect your eligibility to vote. County clerks, municipal offices as well as the Division of Motor Vehicles should have voter registration forms, and additional information is available online.

Voter registration may have to be filed several weeks to a month in advance of Election Day in order for you to be eligible. In the United States, when voter eligibility is in question at the time of an election, a person typically may cast a provisional vote, which will then be considered after other ballots are counted.

Once your eligibility has been verified, it is important to know the dates of key elections. Local newspapers often print schedules and this information can be found online as well. Various local and federal elections occur each year, and November is when national elections take place in the United States.

Before voting, voters should research the respective candidates for each election. To better understand candidates' platforms, visit their websites as well as those of nonpartisan political organizations, such as The League of Women Voters. Deciding who to vote for requires more than just siding with a particular political party. Read as much as you can on the candidates' beliefs, concerns and voter history. This will help you make the best decision possible.

In the days leading up to Election Day, confirm your polling location and voting options. USA.gov advises that if you need special assistance, contact your local elections office for information, advice, and educational materials about voting equipment and details on access to the polling place, including designated parking.

Understand that voter intimidation is illegal. Never feel obligated to vote for one candidate because you felt bullied into doing so. Your vote should remain private unless you want to share your choice with others.

Keep in mind that, in addition to voting for candidates, you may be asked to answer additional questions about issues impacting your local community. These are called ballot measures. A voter guide also may include information about certain issues that will require your vote.

Elections are on the horizon and preparing now can help voters make educated and sound choices at the polls.

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