Feb. 1 brought the Iowa caucuses, which for those who do not know, is a meeting of a legislative body to select their party’s candidates for presidency. It begins the run of presidential primaries, the final narrowing down of candidates before the nation chooses its forty-fifth president on Nov. 8.

A lot of a people believe that the primaries do not really matter and that their vote doesn’t do much. However, looking through history, there are many things that have been affected by one vote. According to the National Court Reporters Association, one vote saved Andrew Johnson from impeachment in 1868. One vote had president Jefferson beating Aaron Burr in 1800.  J.F.K.’s win over Nixon in 1960 was due to a margin of less than two votes per voting precinct, and several states became known as states due to one vote.

It may sound stupid and it may be said often, but it really is important to vote. One vote could decide if we can vote for Clinton or Sanders or Trump or Cruz in November. These elections not only set up who we will be able to vote for, but also what direction our country is heading in after November.

Being a Rhode Island resident, I am fortunate enough to be able to drive home and vote on the day primaries are held in my state. I know many of you who are also from around this area are choosing to go home and vote, and I commend you all for that.

I held a survey to see if people were voting and how they were planning to vote. Out of 75 people who took the survey 57 people said they would be voting in the primaries. 24 said they would be going home and 25 said they will be obtaining an absentee ballot, which is a great thing offered to us by our government. Eight people, however, said they did not know how to get an absentee ballot. I wonder if more people would end up going with that option if they knew how to obtain one.

Getting an absentee ballot is fairly simple too, as long as you give it enough time to process. Here’s a list of some major states that URI residents are from and how you can obtain an absentee ballot in that state:

  • Rhode Island – you must submit an application, which can be found online, to your hometown’s board of canvases before 4 p.m. on the 21st day before the election or primary in which you want to vote.
  • Connecticut – you must fill out an application, found online, and send it to your municipal clerk. There is no specific deadline for Connecticut, but it is suggested you get it in as soon as you can.
  • Massachusetts – you must apply with an online application in writing to your city/town clerk or election commission before noon the day before the election.
  • New York – you must fill out an application, also found online, and mail it to your county board no later than a week before the election.
  • New Jersey – you must fill out an application found online and send it to the address already typed out on the form at least seven days before the election.

Absentee ballots are offered to us because the government wants us voting, and wants us deciding our nation’s future. Use the right you have- if you are a registered voter, go out and vote. Get an absentee ballot if you can’t go home and if you are an independent, see what your state’s regulations are for voting in the primaries, as some states may allow you to vote as a specific party while staying independent.

It is not too early to care about the elections. Actually, it’s the perfect time to care. This is one way that we get to further our country’s progression in hopefully the right direction. If you’re not registered, you should register. If you don’t really care, that’s unfortunate and maybe one day your opinion will change about that. If you are ready to vote, whether by absentee ballot or by going home, make sure you know the date of the election for your state and are prepared for it.

The next few months of voting will not only determine the next four years of leadership, but also the direction our nation will go in. Take this opportunity to make an educated choice about who you think is best fit to lead the nation in the direction it needs to go in.