As the Nov. 6 elections rapidly approach, Americans face a choice. Before they mark a ballot, picking one candidate over another, they face the question of whether they will vote at all.
College students often answer no, said Frank Niles, associate professor of political science. Statistics show that college students historically vote at lower levels than married adults who have families. Students frequently deal with challenges which can prevent them from voting, such as instability in where they live.
Students can struggle to see how policy issues will affect them down the line, Niles said. The debate about Medicare is a current example. Any changes made now will strongly impact the college-age generation, but students do not tend to think about Medicare at that age.
“They also have a lot of other things on their plate to sort through,” Niles said. “Students tend not to be in the habit of voting, since they have only recently gained eligibility. They typically put off voting until later in life.”
Even when young people decide to vote, they often encounter a higher level of hassle since they are typically unable to vote at home on Election Day or during early voting. Students frequently ask Niles how to go about getting an absentee ballot, he said.
Before they can do so, students must also register to vote. While states set their own deadlines and requirements, voters typically must register at least 30 days before the election. The League of Women Voters provides individualized information and links to mail-in voter registration forms on its election website, www.vote411.org/state_guide?state_id=(insert state name here).
The same website also helps voters know how to request an absentee ballot from their state, which they can complete and mail back. Most states’ deadlines for absentee ballot applications are a week before the election. However, most states also require that the voter’s completed ballot be received by Election Day, which probably takes a total of about three weeks.
Senior Matt Christensen voted in the last presidential election and already requested his absentee ballot for this year.
“Voting is a great privilege that too many Americans take for granted,” he said. “People in Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt know what it’s like not to have that chance.”
People should not complain about what the government does if they did not take advantage of their right to vote, he added.
Freshman Megan Gabbert plans to vote for the first time this November, since this is the first election she will be eligible for. She will go back home to Tulsa, Okla. to vote, she said.
“Voting is important because we are called to be proactive in what we believe,” she said. “Sometimes we may have to go with the lesser of two evils if we don’t agree with either candidate, but we should not just avoid being involved.”