Student News

#VOTE2020: How to Vote as a Student on Election Day

Make your vote count this year -- prepare now to vote in the 2020 Election.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

August 19, 2020

Get the details on absentee voting, early voting and casting your vote on Election Day.
#VOTE2020: How to Vote as a Student on Election Day
If you have scrolled through your social media feeds lately, you may have noticed that there is a Presidential Election coming up this year. And if you didn’t know that a pretty big Election is coming up, we’ll give you a pass given the whole global pandemic happening right now. This year, President Donald Trump is facing off against former Vice President Joe Biden, and as you may have seen, the race is already pretty contentious. President Trump’s running mate is Vice President Mike Pence, and on August 11, Vice President Biden announced that Senator Kamala Harris is his VP pick. Though the Election is in November, it’s already time to plan where and how to vote – especially if you’re a student. Many college students attend school outside of their hometown, which is typically also their permanent address. Most often, the permanent address is where individuals are registered to vote. This can be problematic when you attend school in a different city or state, and it’s time to vote on Election Day. Fortunately, there are ways to work around that. Let’s take a look.

1. Register to vote.

Before you even think about where and when to vote, it’s imperative to find out IF you can vote. Anyone who is a U.S. Citizen and is 18 or older on Election Day can vote. This year the United States Presidential Election is on Tuesday, November 3. Voters must also register to vote before Election Day. Registering to vote is simple and can be done at Vote.gov, where voter registration requirements can be found by each state. You should also keep in mind that each state has a voter registration deadline – it’s best to register sooner rather than later to ensure you can vote on Election Day.

2. Request an Absentee Ballot.

Absentee voting is undoubtedly the easiest way to vote for college or graduate students that live away from their hometown. This process allows voters to mail in their ballot, rather than cast a vote in person. You can request an absentee ballot here. There are a few caveats to absentee voting, though. First, states have varying deadlines on when a ballot must be mailed in to be counted in the Election. Vote.org provides a complete list of detailed deadlines for absentee voting. Additionally, a few states require a reason for requesting an absentee ballot, like not being within the county you’re registered to vote for on Election Day(s). This applies to any college students who do not attend an institution where their permanent resident is listed. Many college and graduate students may wish to avoid the polls in light of COVID-19. This is possible in many states where voting absentee does not require an excuse. Other states are citing Coronavirus as an excuse to not vote in-person. However, there are a few states where you can NOT request an absentee ballot because of the global pandemic. These states are: • New York • Indiana • South Carolina • Mississippi • Louisiana • Texas Finally, it’s worth mentioning that absentee voting could be especially tricky this year with the crisis that the U.S. Postal Service is now encountering. For years, the USPS has seen losses in revenue and has begun defaulting on payments, according to USA Today. At this time, extra money is needed for the USPS to tackle absentee voting for Election Day, which is expected to surge as voters hope to avoid visiting the polls on Election Day because of Coronavirus. The Trump Administration is refusing to provide further funding; however, House Democrats are currently working on legislation to pass relief for the USPS, states USA Today. With that, students should start working on securing, filling out, and sending their absentee ballots in the very near future.

3. Early Voting

Another option that students can exercise is Early Voting. This is an in-person voting alternative that takes place anywhere from a few weeks to days before the Election. Students that are currently attending college or graduate school would have to review their institution’s COVID policies to see if they are permitted to leave campus. If they are, taking a weekend trip home to vote could be a possibility. For a full list of when you can Early Vote in your community, check out Vote.org. NBC has also put together an interactive tool to help voters figure out how to make their vote count on Election Day, if you need further help. Check it out here.

4. On Election Day

Finally, students can exercise their right to vote the good old- fashioned way – in person, at the polls, on Election Day. You will typically receive a card in the mail that has your polling place; however, if you don’t receive one – or you misplaced it – you can find your polling place here. On Election Day, you need to bring the proper form of identification in order to vote. Each state differs on what is permitted to serve as a form of identification. To see what your state allows, click here. Before Election Day, it’s imperative that you’ve done your research to ensure that you are able to vote. If you have moved recently, your polling place may have changed, and you need to update the address on your voter registration. You will not be able to vote on Election Day if you show up at the wrong polling place or your information does not match your voter registration records. Take a few minutes to make sure you’re where you need to be on Election Day.

What’s the Big Deal with Voting Anyway?

As a student, you may be wondering why you even need to vote. Though you may not be paying taxes and adulting quite yet, decisions made by the federal and state governments impact you on a daily basis. For one, they set the figures for the Pell Grant and federal student loan interest rates. They also drive and direct higher education policies. Finally, if you want a robust economy and thriving job market upon graduation, it’s important to invest in the leaders that you believe will cultivate that society. Plus, you never know when you’ll land a job in politics; just check out our 20 Amazing Political Internships.

#VOTE Because It’s Fun

Voting isn’t just necessary – it’s fun. Just look at your social media on Election Day. Your feed will be flooded with friends and family sporting their “I Voted” sticker. You don’t want to miss out on a chance to post your selfie along with #trendinghashtags. Along the way to Election Day, you’ll get plenty of encouragement from your favorite celebrities. They love to take to Twitter and Instagram to encourage their followers to vote for their candidate of choice. Think we’re exaggerating? Check out the celebrities already throwing in their support for President Trump as well as those who are rooting for Vice President Biden. Finally, voting is a celebration – a celebration of how far we’ve come when engaging in the political sphere. For many decades, only white men could cast their vote. Through revolutions like the 15th Amendment, the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the scope of who can vote has been widened to include all U.S. citizens, ages 18 and up. This year is especially worth celebrating. Women are commemorating the 100th Anniversary of their right to vote by turning in their ballots before or on Election Day. When women cast their vote this November, they are acknowledging and honoring the decades long movement led by suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Whatever your reasons and whomever you’re supporting this November, cast your vote. It is fun to let your voice be heard – and it’s necessary. Voting today impacts how you live tomorrow. So, don’t forget to register, research how to cast your vote, and make it count in time for Election Day 2020.

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