Being a college student means you’re constantly busy. Whether it’s figuring out where to live, which classes to take, or where to buy your books, it seems like there’s always something else to do. It’s understandable if juggling all of these personal responsibilities as a college student might make it feel like voting in college is at the bottom of your list.
If it’s your first time voting in college or if you’ve recently moved out-of-state for school, here’s a guide to help smooth out the process and ensure you’re ready to cast your vote (whether in person or by mail) before or on Election Day (and, more importantly, get your “I voted” sticker) on November 3rd.
While the phrase “every vote counts” may sound cliché, the reality is–it’s true. Young voters –ages 18 to 29 – today make up around 21% of the eligible voting population. Despite being the second-largest group of voters, historically young voices don’t show up or speak up as loudly. According to a Harvard poll last year, 43% of 18-29 year olds said they were likely to vote, but the actual turnout in Super Tuesday states ranged from 5% to 19%. Why is that? Not only is voting for the first time complicated, but a few of these other factors also stand in the way for students:
Want to ensure your voice will be heard this Election Day? Here’s our guide to getting started and ensuring you’re well-informed when it comes time to fill out your ballot.
This year, our National Election Day falls on Tuesday, November 3rd. This is a massively consequential day for the presidential election, but don’t forget there are many state and local issues to vote on as well in your local primary elections. When and where you can vote on these issues depends on where you live, which can be confusing (don’t worry, we’ll cover that in another section).
Not sure if you’re registered to vote? HeadCount enables you to verify your registration status in any state. Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), there have been ongoing developments about election guidelines and polling places, so be sure to check Head Count’s polling place locator for any updates as Election Day gets closer. Also, if you’re not registered to vote, HeadCount makes it easy for first-time voters to register.
Absentee voting (aka “mail-in voting” or “by-mail voting”) is the process of voting by mail, instead of in-person. This voting method allows you to receive a ballot in the mail to cast your vote at home, then simply put it in an envelope or sleeve that’s provided, and then into a separate mailing envelope. For your vote to count, don’t forget to sign the outside of the envelope (this proves you marked the ballot and no one else!) before returning it through the mail or dropping it off.
Not only can it be convenient to vote at home, but you might also find you have more time to research specific propositions or candidates before making a final decision. Some studies even suggest that voter turnout increases with mail-in voting, given the unfortunate reality that financial constraints may sometimes stand in the way of voters making it to their local polling place on time.
Normally, you would need to request to receive an absentee ballot, but due to COVID-19, most states are organizing to offer automatic mail-in voting. Not sure where your state stands? Check here.
This can be tricky to navigate, but the most important thing to remember is that you have the right to vote wherever you consider “home.” You’ll have to check with your home state or the state you attend school for more information on specific registration requirements. If you want to vote in your home state’s election while in school, you’ll need to get an absentee ballot. The process for requesting an absentee ballot often differs depending on the state, so check here to see your state’s status and requirements on voting by mail.
Want to do what you can to make Election Day a big deal with your roommates, classmates, and peers? Here’s a few ways to get more people involved:
Abby Kiesa, director of impact at CIRCLE, a research organization at Tufts University, says it best when she states that, “young people really do have the ability to create change.” Since young voters have the power to shape how our elections shift, we’re all about motivating students to show up for their state (and country) by exercising their right to vote.
Want to earn money for having an active voice in your community? Ascent is giving away a $1,000 scholarship to students who are making an impact and supporting the social causes that motivate them. Enter for a chance to win by visiting AscentStudentLoans.com/SocialCauseScholarship.
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