Everyone likes to complain about the state of the country and especially the position of the government on various issues, but surprisingly few people actually go out and exercise their democratic right to vote. Many well informed and active people will be understandably uninterested in your opinions if you can't get off your butt, get out of your Bay St. condo, and vote, so next time an election rolls around, participate! Here's how:

Your first step should be to find out if you're eligible to vote. The voting age in the United States is 18, but there are some places that allow 17 year olds to vote, too. Only US citizens can vote, so if you have not yet passed your test, you cannot vote no matter how passionate you are about the issues. You will also have to meet residency requirements, which differ depending on where you live, and you may be ineligible if you are a felon.

Once you've found out that you're eligible, it's time to register to vote. In most places, that simply means filling out a form and mailing it to the office, but in some places like North Dakota and American Samoa, you may have to visit the voting office. Some states also offer online registration. Registering once means you're good to go for all future elections, but make sure to update the voting agency if you move to a new location and open a sludge removal business, as it may change your district. Generally speaking you should be registered by 30 days before the election.

Once you are registered to vote, you will receive information on which polling station you should report to on which day and time. If you can't make it to the polling station at the appointed time, - say you're in Canada on election day, or you're a shut in - you can request an absentee ballot. An absentee ballot is sent either by mail or online and is counted with the votes from the district where you are registered.

For those who can go to the polling station, bring your identification and voter registration information and report to the polling station during the indicated window. You will be checked off a list by election volunteers and given a private place in which to select your candidate. Voting takes just a few minutes, and most employers will let you have paid time off to vote.

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