There are good surprises and there are bad suprises. Good surprise: Unexpected new episodes of Orange is the New Black when you open Netflix. Bad surprise: Unexpected candidate races and referendums down ballot.
Ballotready.org is an excellent tool for first time voters and veteran voters alike. Just enter your zipcode and e-mail address and get quick, easy access to all the basics you need to make an informed decision about who and what you're casting your precious vote towards. No surprises!
Ballot Ready is a fairly new site, so if your ballot isn't available right now, they'll let you know when it is. They aim to have all 50 states included by 2018.
Similar to Ballot Ready, Ballotpedia lets you know what will be on your ballot (and what it means) before you get into the voting booth. The key difference is the Ballotpedia has more information currently available regarding 2017 and 2018 elections across the country, including the state of Texas.
From Massachusetts? Vote in 2018 on a transgender anti-discrimination ballot measure. Casting your vote in Alabama? Make sure you understand the Abortion Policy Amendment. Interested in getting young people in office? Colorado is deciding whether to allow 21-25 year olds to run for State House of Representatives or State Senate. These are just a few of the many issues up for vote in between the major presidential election years.
Find the state and district in which you vote on Ballotpedia's map and see what's on your next ballot!
Sure, your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds are okay ways to keep your thumb on the pulse of current events. How else would you know what Beyoncé's twins are up to or stay up to date on the latest viral late night monologue?
That said, raise your hand if you have ever unfollowed people because their political or social views were different from your own:
These personalized filters, while great for low-key anger management, ultimately contribute to the polarization of our population, moving us further away from meaningful compromise. Consider staying informed from all points of view through allsides.com. While often unpleasant, exposing yourself to varying perspectives makes you better informed and more prepared to engage respectfully and productively with people who think, vote, and live differently than you do. This type of engagement is, afterall, what makes compromise and real social change possible.
Already an avid seeker of different perspectives? Challenge yourself to a little self-reflection with All Sides' "rate your own bias" tool and see how your own lens shapes your interpretation of the news. Happy reading!
Whether you're an international student, an international affairs major, or just a fan of democracy, NDI has you covered with their Global Elections Calendar. NDI works with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, Asia and Central/Eastern Europe, and Latin America/The Carribbean to support ethical and inclusive democratic practices. On tap for Fall 2017: Presidential elections in Honduras and Chile .