Believe it or not, Election Day (November 8th, 2016) is only five weeks away. Yikes! No matter your stance on our presidential candidates, it’s important that you exercise your right to vote. For a large majority of us in undergrad, this is our first presidential election that we’ll get to vote in! Although it’s very exciting, some may be a little confused on how voting works, especially when you’re away at school and not at home near your designated polling place. Have no worries! Get ready to learn about the multiple ways you can vote this November.
1. Make sure you meet the requirements.
Generally the basic requirements that one must meet to be able to vote are:
- Being a U.S. citizen
- Being 18 years of age before or on Election Day
- Meeting your state’s residency requirements (more or less proving you reside in your state)
- Being registered to vote
These are the typical requirements that you must meet in order to vote. In some states things such as having a felony conviction or being mentally incapacitated exclude one from being able to vote. Check with your state’s election office for details.
2. Make sure you’re registered!
Many people register to vote around the age of 16, typically when we’re at the DMV receiving our driver’s license for the first time. Most states allow us to register at 16 although we can’t vote until 18. To be able to register to vote you must meet the requirements of being able to vote in general. Can’t remember if you’re registered to vote? Visit https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/ and enter your information. If you’re not registered to vote there are a few ways you can go about it.
- Online: Visit https://vote.usa.gov/ to register online. You’ll most likely need your driver’s license.
- By Hand: Fill out the National Mail Voter Registration Form and mail it to the listed address on the form for your state.
Keep in mind that all states have a registration deadline that must be met in order to vote in the upcoming presidential election. With the election being 33. days away if you’re not registered to vote yet, make it a priority. Deadlines vary across states. Visit https://www.usa.gov/voter-registration-deadlines to check your state’s deadline.
3. Different Ways to Vote
Aside from heading to your polling place on Election Day, there’s a few other ways to vote.
- Early voting: Most states have early voting which lets voters come in and cast their vote on certain days before Election Day. If your state allows early voting you don’t need to give them an excuse as to why you’re choosing to vote early.
- Absentee ballot: Absentee ballot circumstances vary from state to state. Some states only allow valid excuses in order to receive an absentee ballot such as having an illness, being out of the country on business, or being an out of state college student.
- Establishing residency: As a college student, you can also use your school address when registering to vote and you’ll be designated a new polling place that’s closer to your university.
- Visit http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx#overview to research your state’s laws on early voting and absentee ballots.
If you have any questions about voting, please don’t hesitate to look up your state’s election office website to learn more or contact your officials. Happy voting!