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Decide Who to Vote For

Learn how to make informed choices by using voter guides and sample ballots to research candidates.

Who You Can Vote for on Election Day

Voter guides and sample ballots will show who the candidates are and any state or local measures up for a vote. Reviewing them before Election Day can help you decide who to vote for.  

Voter Guides

Voter guides provide background information on the candidates and ballot measures. They’ll list the candidates for each office and offer details on each one’s experience and goals. They’ll explain any ballot measures, which are specific questions or issues that you can approve or reject. 

Regional newspapers often produce voter guides, as do issue-specific organizations.

Sample Ballots 

Sample ballots simply show you the elections and candidates and any ballot measures that will be on your real ballot. They won’t provide information about the candidates like voter guides do. Your state may mail you a sample ballot or let you download one from its election site. The sample ballot may look exactly like the real one will. 

Some non-profit organizations produce unofficial sample ballots. These ballots may not look the same as what you’ll see when you vote but will provide the same information.

Bringing Notes and Voter’s Guides to Your Polling Place

You can bring your notes, a voter's guide, or a sample ballot into the voting booth. This frees you from having to memorize your choices for candidates and ballot initiatives. Some polling places do restrict cell phone use, so bring paper copies instead of using your phone. Check the rules with your local election office before you go. 

Write-In Candidates for Federal and State Elections

Besides the names on your ballot, you may be able to write in names of other candidates. Most states let you write in votes for president, U.S. senator, and U.S. representative. They may also allow write-in votes for governor and other state offices.  

But writing in a name doesn't mean that vote will count. Many states require that write-in candidates file paperwork before the election. Otherwise, the state won't count the person's votes.

Check with your state election office to find out the rules for your state. If you check using your state’s election website, enter “write-in candidates” in the search bar.

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Last Updated: October 4, 2021