I recently opened my mailbox to find a bulky, mustard yellow envelope practically begging to be opened. There was only one thing it could possibly contain: my absentee voting ballot. I may have audibly gasped, but thankfully no one was around to confirm my moment of political nerdiness.
There’s something so satisfying about filling in each oval and signing my name to exercise my voting rights. From primaries to low-key general elections like this one, all voting opportunities are relatively easy ways to participate in democracy and have your voice be heard. In fact, I would argue that voting absentee is even easier than going to the polls, as your ballot is mailed directly to you and can be mailed right back to your local election commission.
Notre Dame’s political student groups also provide resources to make absentee voting easier. ND Votes is a campus organization that streamlines registration through Turbovote. This group is sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns, the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy and the Constitutional Studies minor, and provides voter assistance in addition to education and mobilization.
This year’s general election is November 5th, so state deadlines for mailing in absentee applications are quickly approaching. Here is an info page from USAGov on how voting works both nationally and by state.
Young voters are notorious for having lower turnouts than older voters, so organizations like Campus Vote Project have dedicated themselves to advocating for college students’ civic participation. Their website points out that, according to the Pew Research Center, millenials and Gen Z will form the largest bloc of the voting pool by 2020, but they rarely enter the voting booth. As college students, it’s difficult to do this in our hometown precincts, which is why voting by mail can rectify such situations.
Regardless of your political affiliation, your voice matters and plays an important role in American democracy. To simply check whether or not you’re registered to vote, visit verify.vote.org. The whole process takes about 15 seconds and can point you towards the next steps in the civic participation process.
Beyond getting to mail in your ballot at no cost greater than time, there are a lot of ways to become a part of the conversation right on campus. For example, Bridge ND is a multi-partisan club at Notre Dame dedicated to fostering thoughtful discussions that transcend political divides. Student Government’s Community Engagement & Outreach department hosts “Get out the vote” efforts in various South Bend neighborhoods. These clubs and more are here to foster civic engagement independent of political beliefs.
When you’re considering whether or not to apply with an absentee ballot, keep in mind the historical efforts that not only created America’s political system but also gave women a voice in that system; and remember to always be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do!! Happy voting!