Your Time at the Polls Really Does Matter
Voting In College
In the midst of classes, work, and campus life, voting may seem like an after-thought to many college students. However, there are many resources chomping at the bit to get students to the polls.
To begin, remember each state has different laws and regulations for voter registration. The Secretary of State office for your home state should provide that information, and sites like declareyourself.com offer state-by-state voting requirements as well. On-campus organizations such as College Democrats or College Republicans should also be up-to-speed. In general, there are two ways to vote while in college:
1. If you originally registered to vote in your hometown or still have your “residency” there, you can request an absentee ballot. It’ll be mailed to you, and you simply vote and return it to your local election office. Remember that you should put in your request for an absentee ballot many weeks before November 6 in order to be counted.
2. A second option is to register to vote where you go to school. This usually requires “residency” of some form, i.e. a lease in your name, a utility bill, or a letter from your Residence Life office when you register. A few states will allow Election Day registration, but most require that you register prior to the day of the vote.
The 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act requires that most colleges make an effort to share information with students about how to vote. Often, schools will go beyond that minimum requirement and offer to shuttle students to the local polling places on Election Day. Check your school’s Student Life or Student Services office for what’s available to you.
Of course, you can only vote in one state, once. This is a democracy, after all!
Fun Voting Facts
• Young voters can change the outcome of an election. Joe Courtney won a seat in Congress by 83 votes in Connecticut in 2006. The polling place at the University of Connecticut processed nearly 10 times that amount of people.
• The president isn’t formally elected until December 17, 2012, when the Electoral College elects a president and vice president.
• The current Electoral College system does not provide for residents of U.S. Territories — such as Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa — to vote for president.
• Voting is mandatory in Australia and, therefore, federal elections have a 94 percent turnout rate. The rate for election for the 2008 presidency in the Unites States was a little more than 57 percent.
• The 1824 election was decided by the House of Representatives, therefore making it the only election where the winner of the majority of the electoral votes did not take the presidency.
Jill Waggoner spent five years working with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Today, she spends her days as a mom, pastor’s wife, and freelance writer, as well as planning her son Judson’s 2048 presidential campaign.