With early voting, mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration available, there is no excuse not to vote in the upcoming election.

Voter turnout in the U.S. has historically been low, with an average of between 50 and 60 percent of all eligible voters taking part in presidential elections over the past 30 years, according to FairVote.

Among young adults, voter turnout is consistently even lower, typically in the 30 to 40 percent range, according to a report from the Census Bureau. This is the lowest of any age group, with 25 to 44-year-olds averaging around 50 percent, 45 to 64-year-olds in the low 60s and those 65 and over averaging around 70 percent. Meanwhile, 18 to 44-year-olds make up roughly half of all eligible voters.

Voting is possibly our greatest civic duty as American citizens. Our vote allows us to influence policy and promote the beliefs and values we hold, in addition to choosing the individuals who will lead us. It allows us as citizens to provide a check for the government by voting for the candidates we believe have our best intentions in mind and the greatest vision for the future of the nation. For our voices to be heard, we must vote.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, voting will look different this year. The pandemic will provide new challenges to some who are planning to vote, but it has also led to more discussion about how to make voting available through alternative options. These include expanded mail-in voting and early voting options.

While voter registration by mail or online has ended in Illinois, in-person voter registration is still available through Election Day. Absentee ballots can be requested through Oct. 29 and simply must be postmarked by Election Day on Nov. 3. Additionally, early voting can be done at various locations throughout the state leading up to Election Day. This leaves plenty of opportunities for those who have not yet developed a plan to vote to do so.

Beyond just voting, we also need to make informed decisions about which candidates and policies we are voting for. While it can be draining to try to keep up with the various local, state and national campaigns in addition to keeping up with other responsibilities that come with our daily lives, our votes will not truly matter unless they are informed votes.

Sample ballots can be found on most county websites, such as this one for Madison County. The Alestle will also provide sample ballots for local counties with explainers in our election issue next week. 

Any amount of research will leave one in a better position to pick the candidates that best align with beliefs. Using websites like the Illinois Voter Guide can allow a prospective voter to learn more about all the races appearing on their ballot in one place. While it may seem like a daunting task at first, take researching and developing a voting plan one step at a time. The more preparation you do beforehand, the more confident you will be in the decisions you are making when you do vote.

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