Your Guide to Absentee Ballots

This year is a major voting year since the presidential election is just months away! As college students, we spend more time at school than we do at home, so technically we should change the address on our licenses to reflect that fact. But let’s be real, we’re lazy college students so we’re not going to go the extra mile. Fear not, though, you can still fulfill your civic duty to vote even from afar! How? Let me break it down for you!

 

1. Register to vote

First and foremost, you need to be registered to vote. If you haven’t already registered (and are 18+ and a U.S. citizen), it’s super easy and takes only minutes to do! Go to https://vote.usa.gov and select the state you live in according to your license. You’ll be redirected to your state’s DMV website in order to create an account and provide all the information necessary to register. Have your license handy so you can enter your ID number. With a few clicks you’ll be all set and your official voter ID will be sent to you in the mail!

 

2. Know when the polls are open

If you’re going to vote, you probably should know when the polls will be open. The general election will be held on November 8th. But currently, we are in the primary and caucus stages of the election. These state-specific elections will determine which two candidates will be on the ballot in the general election next fall. This is an important step in the election, so if your state’s caucus or primary hasn’t passed yet you should definitely cast your vote! It could mean the difference between seeing Hillary or Bernie, Donald or Ted in the White House! Below is the schedule for the remaining primaries and caucuses.

 

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3. Figure out if you can participate in a specific election

Something else to note is the fact that primaries can be either closed or open. When you registered to vote you had the option of specifying which political party you identify with. If you selected a party and your state’s primary is closed that means you can only vote in the primary for your own party. If you selected Republican, you cannot vote in the Democratic primary even if you prefer Hillary or Bernie to the Republican candidates. If your state’s primary is open, then you can vote in whichever primary you like regardless of your party. If your state holds a caucus instead of a primary, then you can only participate in the caucus for the party you registered with. Below is a map of the U.S. that indicates which type of election your state holds.

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4. Know the candidates

Make sure you know who is running and what they stand for. The democratic candidates still in the running are Hillary Clinton, who currently has the lead with over 1,700 delegate votes, and Bernie Sanders, who has a little over 1,000 votes. Donald Trump is leading the polls for the Republicans with nearly 750 delegate votes. Ted Cruz is second with 475 votes and John Kasich is third with 143 votes. For an overview of the candidates' political stances and policy ideas, click here.

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5. Make sure you’re eligible for an absentee ballot

An absentee ballot can be requested by a registered voter if you will be absent from your residence on election day; if you are ill or disabled temporarily or permanently; if you are caring for someone ill or disabled; if you are in jail or prison, awaiting trial, awaiting action by a grand jury, or in prison for a conviction of a crime or offense which was not a felony; or for various other reasons specified and approved by your individual state. You may NOT apply for an absentee ballot if you will be home but you just don’t feel like going out to the polls.

 

6. Get your absentee ballot

You can apply for an absentee ballot quickly and conveniently online. Go to http://www.longdistancevoter.org/absentee_ballots#.VwP3Z6tOLzI and scroll to the bottom of the page to find your home state’s ballot guide. Once you’re redirected, scroll to the bottom of the page, and read through the steps specific to your state. Most states have an application for an absentee ballot that you can download online, print, complete, then mail to your local board of elections (there is also a click through link to help you determine the address of your local board of elections). The information required is just your name, date of birth, permanent address, delivery preference, mailing address where they can send the ballot (assuming you won’t be picking it up in person), indication of which election you need an absentee ballot for, and a signature certifying that the information provided is correct and that you are requesting a ballot for yourself and not someone else.

 

There you have it! Click, print, complete, and then simply stamp it and you’ll be raising your voice and helping make a difference in the country! Way to rock the vote, collegiettes!