With the Virginia Fifth District Democratic Convention fast approaching, candidates and elections officials are gearing up for a busy season. Four Democrats are running for the party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) — Leslie Cockburn, Ben Cullop, Roger Dean Huffstetler and Andrew Sneathern. The Virginia Fifth District Democratic Committee has opted for a convention process in which registered voters caucus throughout the month of April to choose delegates from their precinct, who will then attend a convention to nominate one candidate to take on Garrett in the general election. Despite the flaws of the caucus nominating system, students should make their voices heard and participate. Subscribe to our Opinion newsletter Since Garrett is running unopposed, Fifth District Republican voters will not have the opportunity to select another Republican candidate to be the nominee. Instead Republican voters will have the chance to vote in the U.S. Senate primary June 12. Three candidates — Nick Freitas, E.W. Jackson and Corey Stewart — are running for the Republican nomination to face incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in the general election. While the election is a few months away, the campaign process has already begun and voters should begin to prepare for election day. For students, both of these races offers a valuable opportunity to steer the direction of politics towards supporting college-aged voters. From the local perspective, voting in the Republican primary and caucusing for Democratic candidates give University students the chance to voice particular concerns such as rising tuition costs and problems with the financial aid system. To best represent students, candidates need to be aware of the issues most relevant to our lives — the primary and caucus are two ways to ensure these issues are highlighted. In addition, students need to be aware of the policies candidates most value. Supporting candidates that share students’ interests will lead to a more informed and meaningful election. There are several steps students need to take leading up to the Republican primary. First, students should become informed on the differences between each of the three Senate candidates and choose one to support. Visiting candidates’ websites and attending events, such as the debate hosted by the College Republicans last month, are good ways to form opinions about the three candidates. After students have chosen a candidate, they should update their voter registration to reflect their current address and personal information. Regardless of where students are registered, they should be informed about the steps to vote in the Republican primary. For students registered at the University but staying in areas outside of Charlottesville or Albemarle County for the summer, absentee ballots to be mailed must be requested by June 5. In-state students who are registered at their home addresses, but will not be there over the summer, can also request these absentee ballots through the same process. For those who wish to vote in Charlottesville or Albemarle County and have not yet registered, registration must be complete by May 21. The online portal provides a simple path to registration — students should take the time to ensure their information is correct. Students interested in participating in the Democratic caucus have a different path to follow. The four Democratic candidates for the Fifth District each bring a distinct platform to the race, and students need to ensure their views are represented in their candidate of choice. In addition to learning about the candidates, students should educate themselves about the caucus and convention process itself. The University Democrats recently hosted a crash course, and resources explaining the process are available online. Since the Albemarle County caucus is today at Monticello High School and the Charlottesville caucus is Saturday at Burley Middle School, students should organize ways to get to the events. Services such as the nonpartisan “Car2Vote” program will provide students with rides to the caucuses free of charge. Regardless of students’ party affiliation, participating in the political process over the next few months is vital to electing candidates who best represent our views. Students’ voices provide valuable insights for candidates who all want to win our support — the primary and caucus are direct pathways to engagement with those who will represent the University community on the national stage. The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the executive editor, the editor in chief and three at-large members of the paper. The board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.