Election night has finally arrived! As today has progressed, I’ve sensed the tension of students of both parties grow; no one knows what’s going down tonight, and everyone wants their candidate to win.
My common room has the news on TV tonight, and I’d have to imagine that countless other TVs on campus are turned to the news as well. The Rec Lounge is having an election viewing party from 8 to 10 tonight and I’m sure the Pub has election results on too.
There’s a pretty good chance you’ll be voting in a major election for the first (or maybe second) time when you get to college, and after watching a lot of my peers vote and try to vote over the past couple of weeks, I want to offer you some advice to keep in mind for the next time a major election happens.
First, register to vote as early as possible! You don’t need to wait until there’s only a few weeks until an election, and you really shouldn’t since registration deadlines tend to happen in early October; you can register at any time in the months before an election. There’s plenty of websites out there that can help steer you in the right direction when it comes to registering, and they’re just a Google search away. (I’d recommend using “register to vote” and the name of your state of residence as your search terms.) You should also have the option to register to vote when you get a driver’s license or state ID.
Second, you need to be timely if you’re going to vote with an absentee ballot. Don’t wait until a week before the actual election to start looking for one! You’ll need to request a ballot before you are actually mailed one, and depending on what state you live in, you have to request the ballot by mail. (Other states, like Maryland will let you request online.) It takes time to mail in a request, have it processed, get a ballot mailed to you, and mail it back. As a result, I would recommend sending in your request at least three weeks before the election (even though you can do it much later in the month of October). You’ll feel a lot less stressed when you’ve gotten and submitted your ballot with plenty of time to spare. I’ve encountered too many people on campus who didn’t know what to do to get a ballot or sent it in really late, and it’s left them unable to vote in this election without going home or their ballots may not be counted if they’re received after the deadline.
I hope that when you come of age, you’ll exercise your right to vote, and you’ll be proactive about it. Register early, request your ballot early, and get out vote!