Preparing for Maryland's Primary Election

If watching the Iowa caucus on February 1st taught us anything, it’s that our votes matter – a lot - especially during the primary stages of a presidential election. The Democratic primary was too close to call for hours, with Clinton barely coming out with a narrow victory after six coin tosses decided the tie to be slightly in her favor. Sanders and Clinton will be splitting the delegates from Iowa as a result. The process of voting for nominees is the first step in the voice of the people being heard; if we do not select nominees for president that reflect our priorities and interests in the upcoming election, we will not have candidates for president that we care about come November.

As college students, people working on building our careers and lives, we have specific interests that many candidates may try to hint during campaigns but are easy for older (established and generally wealthy) people to take seriously enough to bring into public policy. If we want our interests met, the first democratic step of primary elections is especially important to us. We need candidates that not only seem to understand our interests but show a desire to legislate for us rather than against us.  We need to take this seriously; millennial college students absolutely cannot fall into the trap of the 2/3 of eligible voters who opt out of the democratic process. There are too many of us and we have too much at stake.  Not only is it important for us to vote, it is a paramount that we understand who we are voting for and why. Investigate the issues important to you, and thoroughly research the candidates' stances and voting records on your issues within the party whose primary election you will be participating. 

In order to vote in a primary election, you must be a registered voter in your state. If you are an out-of-state student, or from a part of Maryland far enough away that you cannot make it to your polling place on April 26th, you will need to know about absentee voting. But more on that later. In Maryland, you have to be registered to the political party whose primary that you wish to vote in that election (this means that Independents, Greens and Libertarians do not get to vote in primary elections for major candidates). This means that if you want Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic candidate for president, you have to register as a Democrat in order to vote for him in the primary election. Likewise, if you want Marco Rubio to be the Republican candidate, you must register as a Republican in Maryland. You should register for the party that you feel your beliefs are most aligned to in order to meaningfully engage in this electoral process.

Once you have selected your party, and probably your candidate by then, if you have no registered to vote, you will need to. You only have until 21 days before the primary election to register, because the primary is on April 26th, this gives you until April 5th. The good news is that for Maryland residents, this is a fairly easy process. One of the ways to register is do so at the MVA when you get or renew your driver's license or state-issued ID card. MVA employees will ask you if you would like register while you are there, or if you already have, they will ask you if you wish to stay registered to a particular. But what if you don't need to renew or change your license between now and April 5th? Not a big deal at all. You can register to vote online! You can register on your phone at Starbucks, while you're bingewatching House of Cards season 4 or from the back of your last core class if you really want. Register at this site: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration/InstructionsStep1

If you are a resident of another state, you will have to search for your state board of elections in order to get a better handle on your state's voter registeration process. Voter registration is supposed to be an easy process, and is pretty similar from state to state which is good news for non-Marylander readers! 

If your permanent address is out-of-state and you're living here to go to school at Towson, whether on or off campus, you unfortunately cannot vote at a polling place here. But again, that is not really a big deal because absentee voting is not only possible but fairly easy once you are registered. For example, you can request an absentee ballot online from the New Jersey Divisions of Elections, and simply mail it back to them. You will have a different date and timeframe to work in though, so be mindful of that. 

Absentee voting is also a viable option for in-state students that live too far away from their polling place to go home to vote. Marylanders who are outside of their county can request absentee ballots from the Maryland Board of Elections that also have to be mailed back. 

Early voting is another possibility for Maryland students who will have opportunity to go home the week before April 26th. You will have to look up earling polling centers in your area online based on your county. 

Finally, remember that this vote is important and you have the absolute right to go vote. That means your boss or your professor must understand and accodomate that within reason. Be polite and respectful to them with regard to timeliness and making up work, but you are under no obligation to feel pressured to forgo voting because of pressure from anyone. Two of these candidates will be running against each other, and we ought to have a say in which of them makes it that far along.