So you may be wondering why I am writing about this? It is because voting is our responsibility. Our elders aren’t acting on issues such as climate change, so it is now our time to make our voices heard in the streets–and at the ballot box. With so many Democrats running for president it can be hard to keep track of all of them, and even harder to decide who to vote for. Luckily for you, the presidential candidates were reduced to 12 democratic candidates who met the eligibility criteria for the October 15 debate. Currently the top polling 12 are Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; former Housing Secretary, Julián Castro; Senator Kamala Harris of California; Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas; Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; philanthropist Tom Steyer; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang. 

What to Know About Each Candidate:

Biden was Vice President under Barack Obama and so far has been using what some may consider to be Obama’s successful presidency in hopes of becoming the next president. So far, most of his plans center on  expanding what Obama already has done and fixing the mistakes made.

Booker usually uses his past experiences in debates and refers to them as a reference and starting point to show how his experiences have helped shape the policies he would make if elected. It helps position him as a community man and helps him gain more communal support.

Buttigieg has been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana since 2012 and was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve between 2009 and 2017. He would be the first openly gay presidential nominee for a major political party if he wins the primary.

Castro served as the mayor of his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, between 2009 and 2014 and was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama between 2014 and 2017. 

Gabbard is an American politician and military combat veteran serving as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district. Elected in 2012, Gabbard became the first Samoan American and Hindu member of Congress.

Harris has been a Senator for California since 2017 and came up through California politics, serving as the District Attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011 and the first woman Attorney General of California from 2011 until 2017. 

Klobuchar served as the County Attorney for Minnesota’s most populous county, Hennepin County, from 1999 to 2007 and became the first woman to be elected Senator from Minnesota, serving since 2006. 

O’Rourke ran unsuccessfully for Republican Ted Cruz’s Senate seat in 2018 in an election that was much closer than anticipated. Previously, he represented Texas’s 16th congressional district, which includes his hometown of El Paso, from 2013 to 2019. 

A self-described Democratic Socialist, Sanders ran for the 2016 Democratic nomination and lost to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sanders has served as a Senator for Vermont since 2007 and previously was Vermont’s sole congressional representative from 1991 to 2007. 

Steyer started the hedge fund Farallon Capital and founded the political groups NextGen America and Need to Impeach, pouring millions of his own money into television ads and digital campaigns calling for President Trump’s impeachment. 

Warren is the first female Senator from Massachusetts and previously taught law, specializing in bankruptcy. She is known for proposing the original idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2007 while still teaching at Harvard Law School. 

Yang has used his career as a tech entrepreneur as a layout for his campaign. As president, he wants everyone 18 and older to receive a minimum monthly income of $1,000 from the government.

Most of the Democratic candidates have some views in common, such as immigration reform and tackling climate change, but also have their own unique ways of prioritizing these topics. For example, all of the Democratic candidates understand the need for action on climate as they have read the science, but they all have different strategies (I.e Castro’s immigration plan to undo the damage that Trump has done, while Booker’s is more about fixing the system with a special emphasis on detention centers) and approaches to deal with the crisis.

By watching the debates, doing research, and even reading this article, you will become more aware and will start to see and weigh those differences yourself. 

While our politicians have power, they can’t do everything. If you have ever wanted change and your elected politician never acted on it, then it’s your job to make sure that it gets done. This can be done in two ways. First, vote for who you think will carry the plan out and get the change you desire. Second, once they are elected into office, hold them accountable and remind them what they promised the public. 

“Why me? Aren’t I too young to vote?”

Throughout history, young people have been told time and time again that we should be silent and that we aren’t old enough to take the reigns of power but that isn’t true now. At a time when our planet is dying and our future is being ripped from our grasp, we must act. It is time that the politicians realize that this is our world, our future, and our lives. If they are going to be creating policies and passing laws, they should have to answer to the whole electorate, not the special interests. Laws being passed now are affecting us, so there isn’t time to wait. Remember that you can vote as soon as you turn 18, so when your birthday starts approaching, REGISTER and find out the closest election after your birthday that you can vote in. Find out your local and state laws and what you can do. If you are younger than 18, you can help other people register to vote and commit to voting. This is our legacy, so we need to do it right.

I Signed Up So What Do I Do Next?

Now this next part is up to you, watch all of the Democratic debates and do more research on each candidate. The more research you do, the more you’ll learn about each candidate and soon you’ll know which one you like the best. 

Since I will be 18 by the 2020 presidential election, I’m also doing a lot of research trying to figure out which candidate I like best (I do try to practice what I preach.) Right now, I personally think that Kamala Harris seems like a good choice  to be our first female President and her career as a prosecutor could help her in the debates against Trump. On the other hand, with so much experience, Joe Biden could also be a great president. Regardless of what you may have thought about Obama’s presidency, good or bad, Biden’s experience as Obama’s Vice President for eight years can help him to change our country should he become president. 

That said, with over six months before the primary, 12 active candidates, and many more debates and interviews to watch, my chosen candidate may shift again. Rest assured, I’ll be continuing to research, and hope you will too. Would love to hear who YOU are rooting for in the comments!

To explore the policies that each candidate supports in more depth, check out this chart.