Another semester and a new academic year at the UD Honors College! While Fall 2020 means another round of homework, midterms, and finals, it also means one more thing: the general election. Back in spring I was able to watch debates and Super Tuesday results in Redding’s main lounge, and though I’m not able to do that on-campus this semester, there’s still many important things we can do. That spring I wrote an article about absentee voting, which was not-so-conveniently written immediately following COVID-19’s sending us off campus. Now that we’ve gone several months through these restrictions and that a major election is upcoming, more options are available to voters.
In my previous article, I focused heavily on voting by mail and voter registration. For college students, especially those out-of-state and living on or around campus, voting by mail is the likely option for many. Rules involving absentee mail-in ballots vary by state, so websites such as https://www.vote.org/absentee-voting-rules/ can help in pinpointing what is required in your individual state. I took part in Philly’s mayoral and city council elections last November, and I did so by voting by mail on campus! The directions were all laid out in my ballot, including how to seal it properly and how to make sure it gets mailed off. The former is especially important here in Pennsylvania, where rules require you to place your ballot inside of a provided blank envelope and then into a second envelope from there. Many states also allow you to track your mail-in ballot online, so you can make doubly sure that it gets mailed in time. https://www.vote.org/absentee-ballot-deadlines/ is a great resource for finding when your ballot is due to be mailed by, and many states even allow you to drop off an absentee ballot at a county election office.
Another popular option is in-person, early voting. Many local officials allow for you to cast your ballot in person before Election Day at a certain location or locations, but once again, these rules vary by state. Philadelphia, for example, recently opened many satellite voting locations across the city. This allows other Philadelphia voters and me to register to vote and to vote at one of seventeen locations across the city, in the event that one is busy on Election Day or (especially important due to COVID-19) large crowds are an issue for someone. You can find general state-by-state info at https://www.vote.org/early-voting-calendar/, and from there you can look more into local city or county information.
Finally, one can vote in person on Election Day itself. https://vote.gov/ allows you to look into registry and general election information based on your state, and state websites will often let you check your registration status while telling you where your polling place is. Poll opening hours vary by state, but one thing to know is that they cannot close a polling place if you’re still in line at closing time.
As of writing this, the election is in 18 days. Voter registration deadlines vary by state and can be found here: https://www.vote.org/voter-registration-deadlines/. The deadline to register is very close, so be extra sure to do so (many states offer online registration!). There are no classes taking place on Election Day, freeing up any class time we may have had, but other things can come up, so having open options is best. College students often have lower turnouts in elections, but that can change! There are a wealth of sources online about voter registration and the officials running for federal, state, and local offices, and you can even organize voting activities if you so please, like going out to vote with friends or researching information about candidates alongside your floormates. TurboVote has even made voter registration a competition among different RSOs! Voting is just one of many ways to get involved, and can open the door to more political activity.
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