Four Key Tips for First-Time Voters Ahead of Election Day

Homemade Joe Biden (left) and Donald Trump (right) campaign signs.
Photographs by Nick Porpora

New Paltz, N.Y.—With the 2020 election season at its forefront, people are anxious to hit the polls and let their voices be heard.

For a lot of SUNY New Paltz students, this will be their first time voting. Historically, young adults have usually shied away from placing their votes. According to the U.S. Census, only 46.1% of people ages 18-29 voted in the 2016 election.

Talking to SUNY New Paltz third-year student Skylar Coons, she felt the voting process was confusing when she voted for the first time and that may be a reason why most young adults don’t participate. To put those concerns and uncertainties at ease, here are some tips for first-time voters that will give them confidence going into this important event. 

Make Sure You’re Registered to Vote

In order to be able to vote, you have to be registered. By now, you should have already done so as the deadline has passed to vote in the 2020 election. To make sure you’re registered, go to Vote.org

Research the Candidates

Doing research is very important to ensure the most qualified person is elected. Throughout Gerald Benjamin’s career as former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at SUNY New Paltz, he’s seen most people leave this important step behind. Benjamin also served on the Ulster County Legislature from 1981 to 1983.

“It’s actually uncommon for people to do serious research, they’re more likely to consume information from sources they trust and frame their point of view from those sources,” Benjamin said.

To get the most out of your vote, do some homework on the candidates. Watch the debates and study what policies each candidate supports. 

Also, don’t forget about the local elections. Those are just as important and could shape the future of the county. 

Town of Montgomery Senior Center during Early Voting 
Photograph by Nick Porpora

Find Your Polling Site

If you’re planning to vote in person, you have to figure out where your official polling place is. To find out where that is, go to voterlookup.elections.ny.gov

If you are currently away from your official polling place and can’t vote at that location, then you need to apply for an absentee ballot to cast a vote at a location other than your official polling site. 

Since the deadline has already passed to request an absentee ballot through mail and online, you must go in person to your local county board of elections and drop off your application. This must be done no later than the day before the election. An absentee ballot will be received by mail and can be dropped off at any nearby polling station. 

Stay Six Feet Apart When Waiting in Line

With COVID-19 spreading rapidly throughout the world, we must do everything to protect ourselves from spreading the virus. 

That is no different when going out and placing your vote.

Stay six feet apart and be aware of how close you come in contact with someone. You also have to wear a mask when voting at a polling site. 

According to Village of New Paltz Trustee Alexandria Wojcik, all Ulster County polling sites will provide masks for those in need. There will also be hand sanitizer stations and the election staff will be wiping down the surfaces throughout the day. 

Nick Porpora

Nick Porpora is a fourth-year journalism student living in Middletown, New York. He holds an associate degree in communication from SUNY Orange.

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