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“After voting for the first time, I sort of felt like I got played,” writes VOX ATL’s Adam Dickerson. “Sure, it’s great that I gave this politician the push toward power, but now what are they going to do?”

First-Time Voters, Take It From Me — Do Your Research Before You Go to the Polls

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It’s Thursday afternoon when I start the short, half-mile walk from work to Stonecrest Parkway to finally get this voting thing over with. I find the voting precinct right beside the COVID-19 testing station. The same testing station I visited just weeks before to appease my parents’ paranoia, which is just way too coincidental and ironic for this obligatory occasion. When I go inside the gutted Sam’s Club warehouse that will become Stonecrest’s City Hall, I’m told at the door, “There’s only one rule here — don’t use your phone.”

The D or R Trap

My phone was ringing the entire time. I wish I could’ve answered the call, because maybe they could tell me who the 30-odd other names were on the ballot. After voting for president and U.S. Senate, I had no idea who anybody else was. Beneath the names, each one has their political party in parentheses. This is where you can get trapped. Because the logical conclusion is to stick to your presidential party, one might think, “Oh, this person is Democrat/Republican, so I’m going to vote for him/her.”

Sounds simple, right? Well, it would be if you knew who any or all of these people are. For almost a year, I wasn’t even sure if they had validated my voter registration. I sure as hell wasn’t thinking about researching who was on the Georgia ballot. If I had, I’d have known I could have just entered my vote for presidential and Senate candidates and skipped the rest. Or, and I’m just being a bit overcomplicated here, I could have done research on the dozens of names I had to choose and questions I had to answer.

No Phones Allowed

They claim it’s for security reasons, but I’m pretty sure they don’t want you using your phone at the voting precinct to keep the ignorant voters ignorant. Instead of being tempted to quickly Google the candidates for tax commissioner, wouldn’t it be great if there was an info box you could review within a candidate’s slot that explained not only their political affiliation but their achievements and campaign values?

Or maybe it’s easier to just keep voting for one party, mark up a whole ballot with red or blue ink? Because that’s what first-time voters are commended for. That’s what I was commended for. The more divided the voting pool is, the more extreme the pendulum swings. This is why there are eras of Republican control and eras of Democratic, because this mindset of rallying behind one party or another creates generations of political conflict that ultimately hold a country’s development back longer than necessary.

Did I Get Played?

After voting for the first time, I sort of felt like I got played. Sure, it’s great that I gave this politician the push toward power, but now what are they going to do? At 19 years old, there are certain core values that I have for myself and the country I live in, and if those aren’t reflected back, my resolve against American politics strengthens. In a society where moderation is damn near impossible due to far-right and far-left idealists, those of us new to having a say in voting need to keep weight on politicians to uphold the platform they’ve promised.

My advice? If you’re a first-time voter, do your research, so when your parents ask you, “Did you vote Jon Ossoff for Georgia Senate,” you can answer, “Yes,” or “No,” and have an answer to “Why,” or “Why not?”

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