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It’s almost November, and that means election season is upon us! While WashU and St. Louis have bounds of resources available to help you vote in Missouri, you may be like me, an out-of-state student hoping to make an impact in their home state. Below is a list detailing the importance of voting, everything to know about mail-in ballots, notarization, how to make informed choices, and how to make sure your vote is counted.

Step one: deciding where to vote

As a student in the state of Missouri, you have two options: voting as a Missourian or voting from your place of permanent residence. If you would rather vote in Missouri or if you’ve run out of time to receive a ballot by mail, WashU has tons of resources on where to vote in-person, and even a simple Google search will do. However, if you’re like me and would like to make an impact from your home state, have no fear. Voting from your home state may be vital in the election if it’s a swing state, or maybe you’ve just dreamt about voting from home forever. Regardless, it is very much possible and often encouraged.

Step two: registering to vote

While the deadline to register has passed in most states, there are steps to ensure you are registered. Check your registration status here: https://www.voteamerica.com/am-i-registered-tovote.

If you’re not registered, here are some steps to take if you’re out of state in the next election:

  1. Check your state’s registration deadline- you don’t want to miss it again!
  2. Register by mail using a printed form or return a form sent to you by mail.
  3. Use one of the countless resources to register online with the click of a button.

Step three: requesting a ballot

Again, you probably should have already requested a ballot, but if you haven’t, go check your state’s deadline and do so now! Like registering to vote, the form to request an absentee ballot can be received in the mail and returned by the sender, or if you’re impatient like me, you can conveniently print out the document and ship it to your county’s voting clerk directly.

Step four: receiving and completing your ballot!

Now that you’ve gone through the tedious steps to become a registered voter, it’s time for the fun stuff. Once you receive your ballot, you’ll be faced with a long list of decisions to make. Before your ballot even arrives, you can get a sneak peek at your state’s list of contenders.

The website www.vote411.org is a free resource that shows the candidates running for every office in your state. Not only does it list candidates, but it gives a description of each position so you know exactly what you’re voting for as well. After researching each of these candidates and positions thoroughly, you can fill out a mock ballot so you’re prepared when the real one comes! I find it satisfying and rewarding to be well-educated on each position and prepared with my choices when the time comes to vote– it makes the process a lot less stressful!

Step five: getting your ballot notarized

Many states require official notarization of a mail-in ballot. Lucky for you, WashU has tons of socially-distanced spaces available to students for free ballot notarization. Stop by the Sign-Up Genius organized by the Gephardt Institute and WashU Votes to sign up for a time slot today! https://www.signupgenius.com/go/5080b4baea828a2fb6-danforth1

Step six: mailing your ballot

After you’ve made some well-informed choices and completed your real ballot, it’s time to mail it back! I know it can feel like your ballot may never make it in time, and generally, there’s a lot of stress associated with mail-in voting. One step you can take is tracking your ballot (if resources permit and your state allow for this). Websites like www.ballottrax.com and state-specific domains found through a basic Google search will allow you to enter your residence address, driver’s license and/or social security number, and track the status of your mail-in ballot. This is a productive way to ensure your vote gets counted and to feel saner as a voter.

Congratulations, you’re well on your way to voting (if you haven’t already)! Remember, “being a college student” is never a valid excuse not to vote. Millions of Americans vote by mail every election season– it’s safe and secure. With the wide range of resources made available by WashU and a basic internet search, you’re more than able to make your voice heard in determining our nation’s future. Happy voting!

coffee enthusiast from houston, tx / pre-med studying bio and economics!
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