2004_08_ask_usflag.jpgMany Ask Gothamist readers have written to us recently with questions related to politics, current events, and the upcoming Republican convention and Presidential election. So Ask Gothamist is going to be bringing you non-partisan advice over the upcoming weeks and months about participating in the democratic process. Whatever your political leanings, it's a good idea to vote in the upcoming election, educate yourself about local and national candidates and issues, and make sure that your voice is heard.

First and foremost, make sure you are registered to vote. A great place to get information about candidates, issues, and how our government works is Project Vote Smart. You can learn about elected officials and candidates and view their voting records on various issues. You can also find out which politicians represent you and read "Government 101" if you feel like you'd like be more aware of the political process but don't know much about it.

A number of Ask Gothamist readers have also asked about swing states and why they're important in the next election. While some states are solidly "red" or "blue" (republican or democrat), in swing states the outcome for the next election is uncertain. Just look at the last Presidential election to see how important swing states are, often helping to determine the winner in close elections. The important swing states for the upcoming election are Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada, Maine, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, and Arkansas. Most states have voter registration deadlines of October 3rd - so if you'd like to encourage swing state citizens to vote, now is the time. Check out the Citizen Action of NY Non-Partisan Voter Registration Campaign and help register voters in nearby swing states like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

Coming soon: Ask Gothamist advice on what to do during the Republican Convention.