It will be super-crowded, there will be too many guys with deluded self-confidence, and you have a headache just thinking about it. No, I’m not talking about a Halloween frat party, I’m talking about the 2020 Presidential Primary.
Here’s the deal. We all have at least a few brain cells left, so we already know that if people don’t vote in this election, it could be the end of the world as we know it. No pressure or anything. However, college students have historically had low turnout rates, and it’s not just because we’re lazy! There are just a few more hoops to jump through that can make the process pretty complicated.
And, like, I get it. Voting, especially if you go to school out of state, can be even harder than waking up for your Friday morning 8am. It’s almost like certain people don’t want young, progressive students to have a say in democracy, but that’d be crazy! Right?
Think of this article as the “How to Vote” equivalent to a study guide the girl with 1,000 colored highlighters makes a whole two weeks in advance before an exam. It has all the answers and will either put you at ease or stress you the f*ck out.
Should I Already Know Who I’m Voting For?
Not at all. That would be like committing to a boy the first few weeks of freshman year just because he called you an Uber once. The candidates still have a lot of room to impress/disappoint us, and you might not know many of the differences between their policies. However, now is the time to follow all of them on Twitter, watch the debates if you haven’t yet, and pay attention when you see them in the news.
What About The Party I Want To Support?
I know this is supposed to be a judgment-free zone, so I guess it’s okay if you aren’t sure which party you want to affiliate with. But like…reeeally!?
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By now you’ve probably heard that a Special Operations forces raid resulted in the death of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The world is undoubtedly a safer place because he is dead. What you might not have heard is that the mission was hustled along after Trump’s sudden announcement this month that he would withdraw American troops from northern Syria. The withdrawal “disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout,” the New York Times reported after speaking with officials familiar with the matter. The mission was a success largely with the help of Kurdish forces in the area, who assisted the U.S. (helped us figure out where exactly al-Baghdadi was, had their own spies keep an eye on him) even after we betrayed them by stepping aside to allow a Turkish offensive. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Sunday: “The irony of the successful operation against al-Baghdadi is that it could not have happened without U.S. forces on the ground that have been pulled out, help from Syrian Kurds who have been betrayed, and support of a U.S. intelligence community that has so often been disparaged.”
In some states, you can wait until election day to pick a party. However, many states have what is called a closed primary, which means you have to declare your party affiliation when you register to vote. Do some research to find out if you live in one of those places before it’s too late and you miss your chance to vote in the primary.
Wait… Do I Have To Register To Vote?
Maybe you slept through your high school government class and missed this, but yes, yes you do. You have to register to vote in *almost* every state. The standards and rules for registration are different depending on where you live, so it’s important that you’re looking at the right stuff. If you don’t remember whether you’re registered or not, don’t freak out, you can check and/or register here. Alternately, if you need more information about the rules in your state, check them out here.
I Go To College Out Of State, Where Am I Registered?
You can only vote in one state, but as long as you have a permanent or temporary address in your state of choice, you are qualified to register. While this might seem like a trivial choice, the state you pick might make a huge difference.
I’m from Ohio (which is a swing state), but I go to school in Louisiana (which almost always votes red—aka for the GOP). My vote will probably carry more weight in Ohio, so that’s where I am registered. If you’re conflicted, do some research on voting patterns in your states. Make an educated choice based on where you think your vote has the biggest impact!
OK, I’m Registered. How Do I Download My Ballot?
Warning: this is where sh*t starts to get complicated, but take a deep breath, we’re going to get through this together.
If you’re voting in your home state, but go to school out-of-state, you probably plan on voting through an absentee ballot. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as just downloading a ballot and emailing it to your state’s election office. There are pretty hard deadlines for voting with an absentee ballot, and you can’t treat this like a psych essay you write the night before it’s due. Follow my advice and do it ASAP, so there are no complications.
Once your application is completed, you should be all set and should receive your absentee ballot before the election. However, if you have any reason to doubt that your application went through, most states allow you to check the status of your application online.
What Do I Do If My Ballot Doesn’t Come On Time?
You would think there is a pretty slim chance of this happening, but conveniently last election cycle, every single one of my liberal friends voting via absentee ballot in Georgia mysteriously did not get their ballots in time to vote. So weird how that happens! Even if it does happen, you don’t have to freak out. Go to your local polling station and ask for a provisional ballot. They are required to give you one by law, even if you are in a different state from the one for which you’re voting. Then, go on your state’s website to find out how to confirm that your ballot will be counted.
I Got My Ballot And Filled It Out, How Do I Mail It In?
I once saw a completed in absentee ballot just sitting on a desk in someone’s room like three weeks after the election. No joke. They went through the trouble of registering, applying for the ballot, researching the candidates, AND filling it out only to give up because they couldn’t find a stamp. And, like, to an extent, I get it. Sending mail is really f*cking hard and archaic.
The plight of being unable to find stamps on campus is well-documented on the internet. Sources like ABC, Business Insider, and lots of campus newsletters reference college-aged voters who don’t vote due to a lack of stamps.
Ideally, you’ll be able to find stamps for free around campus. At many schools, Greek and other campus organizations will provide them during election season. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. But also, CVS sells stamps; it’s really not that serious.
Here are some things you need to know:
- Like everything else, you can buy stamps online! Stamps.com allows you to purchase and print out postage for your ballot. You can also try Amazon.
- Your absentee ballot will come with an official envelope you must use to return the ballot. Do not lose this.
- The USPS is required by law to mail absentee ballots even if they don’t have stamps on them. While I don’t necessarily encourage not using a stamp, this is a great last resort. We shouldn’t have to pay a whole 50 cents (is that how much stamps cost?) for our votes to count!
Hopefully, this is all the information you need to successfully vote in college. However, if you’re ever unsure of something, vote.org has easy to understand resources and instructions.
I know this seems really complicated, you have a lot going on, and Mercury is about to be in retrograde, but this election really is a big one. Especially for young voters. According to an essay published by the Pew Research Center, 37% of the electorate will be Millennials and members of Gen-Z. It’s crazy to think about, but the future of democracy is basically in the hands of the same people who ate f*cking Tide Pods and spent $65 on Kylie Jenner’s Rise and Shine hoodies.
That said, go register to f*cking vote. It’s your civic duty.
Images: Element 5 Digital / Unsplash, Giphy (2)