In the U.S., 2020 is not only the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the Presidential Election year! Most people, even college students, are aware of the election, especially with the amount of politics on social media now. Speaking as a former college student, I was not at all motivated or interested in voting while I was at college, especially because I thought at the time that it was a pain to get registered, find my polling place, etc.
Little did I know back then that it’s actually very important and easy to register and vote even if you’re away at school in a different city or state! Whether or not you’ve been following the election, you should know that your vote matters.
As long as you’re a U.S. citizen over the age of 18, you can register to vote! The deadline to register online is coming up on October 18th. If you register by mail, your mail must be postmarked by October 6th. If you miss either of these deadlines, you can register in person up until Election Day, November 3rd! Register here online
Request a Ballot
If you are living away from your hometown, you can request an absentee ballot and mail in your vote. Depending on what state you’re in, your deadline may be earlier than the ones above. Some states need a reason — living away from your permanent residence — to submit an absentee ballot. There are some states that will not accept the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse, which are: New York, Indiana, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Due to recent funding issues with USPS, it’s best to request, fill out, and mail your absentee ballot as soon as possible!
If you’re worried about mailing in your vote, you can always take advantage of early voting. If you’re taking classes at home online during the pandemic, you could surely register to vote early in your hometown. If you’re away, and your college guidelines permit it, you could go home to vote early on the weekend!
Vote on Election Day
Celebrate the day and your right to vote by going in person to the polls on November 3rd. You can find your polling place here if you don’t already have your card. You’ll get an “I Voted” sticker and everything! Make sure you bring the right identification with you to vote, though. If you’re not sure, check this resource out.
Not sure what the best option is for you? Check out this interactive guide to voting.
Why Should You Vote?
I’ve asked this question of myself a lot in the past 9 years since I became eligible to vote. We learn in Social Studies throughout elementary, middle, and high school that we should exercise our right to vote, but maybe you’re not convinced. While it may not seem entirely relevant to your life as a college student, federal and state government decisions are made every day and impact you. Here are a few things that impact you directly:
- Pell Grant funding
- Federal student loan interest rates — this is big after you graduate, especially in the next 4 years
- Job market
The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic is no reason to not vote. When we elect leaders, our credibility as a nation and our economy are affected by that nationwide decision. These decisions have been instrumental in enacting powerful changes like the right for everyone aged 18 and over to vote — no matter gender, race, or ethnicity. Plus, it’ll be the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, so if you’re a woman, celebrate your rights!
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