Class of 2019 (and their parents!): Congratulations on your leap into adulthood! When your last test is taken and your locker is cleared out, there’s one more bit of work you can tend to. It’s easy! If you are at least 17, you can register to vote. If you’ll be 18 by the next election, you can participate in that process just like other adults in the United States.
Newly registered voters, and those whose post-high school plans will take them away from Rutherford, will benefit from a parent’s guidance. Voting requires some advance planning, so it’s not as simple as meeting friends for a meal or heading off for a beach day.
Step 1: REGISTER to vote by providing basic information. Fold up the form so it becomes an envelope, add a stamp and drop it into a mailbox. That form is here: https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/assets/pdf/forms-voter-registration/68-voter-registration-english-bergen.pdf
Your registration must be received three full weeks before any election in which you want to vote. Registering once covers you for all future elections, unless your name or permanent resident change.
Step 2: PLAN TO VOTE by researching more than the issues or candidates. Your plan should include knowing the date of the vote, the times that polls are open, and the poll where you are assigned to vote. Once an election is formally scheduled, you can check those details here: https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/vote-polling-location.shtml
Voting by mail is a convenient way to participate in the election even if you have to work that day or can’t make it to the polls for any reason. There’s no need to track down the poll time or location, but you will need to pay attention to the calendar, use the right form, and find two stamps. The form used to apply for a Vote By Mail ballot is here: http://www.bergencountyclerk.org/Services/22. To be mailed a ballot in time to count, you must fill out the form, stamp it, and send it to arrive a full week before the election. You’ll receive your actual ballot in the mail, and you’ll need to mark that, stamp it, and send it back with a postmark no later than the date of the election.
College-bound students: If your permanent address remains Rutherford, you will be eligible to vote in hometown elections even if you’re not in town. The Vote By Mail option is designed for just that situation!
Both the Voter Registration and Vote By Mail forms offer a box you can check to receive ballots for future elections. Checking that box once puts a voter in position to participate with less advance planning next time!
Step 3: VOTE AT THE POLLS if you haven’t sent in a ballot. Show up at your assigned poll, and be prepared to provide the full name and same address you used when you registered. You might be asked to provide identification, which can include your driver license or any current photo ID card. When you’re in the voting booth, you’ll get to decide which boxes to check, even if you choose to leave some blank because you don’t know the candidates or issues. It will all be up to you: a registered voter doing your civic duty!