Out-of-state students find the voting process dizzying
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 19:09
According to the Census Bureau of young voters, 18 to 29-year-olds are the least likely age group to vote. Even the Obama campaign in 2008 could not bring more than half of young voters to the ballots. As the 2012 election creeps closer, it seems young voters still won’t be voting. According to a July Gallup survey, only 58 percent of registered voters ages 18 to 29 plan to vote in the upcoming election.
Why is our generation so unlikely to vote? In an article from the New
Republic magazine, reporter Cheryl Russell suggests that money, marriage and homeownership are the most common issues that prompt people to vote. She argues twenty-somethings simply do not have these adult commitments at stake. Therefore, they do not see the importance of voting. While I am sure these are considerable factors, some of the most important issues, like the economy and healthcare, do directly affect young adults.
So, why is turnout so low? I would wager it is the logistics of voting. Between registration, absentee ballots and very speciﬁc polling locations, even a young voter with the best intentions can fail to exercise their civil right. Russell was on to something when she claimed young adults lack commitments, but perhaps it is that young voters have not settled down into a lifestyle that keeps them from voting.
When in college, students often do not have a true home. Especially for out of state students, voting is a struggle. Do you register in your home state? Do you register in Delaware?
Delaware is actually one of the pickiest states when it comes to allowing college students to vote. In order to register to vote in Delaware as an out-of-state college student, you must provide a Delaware drivers license, Delaware vehicle registration or a copy of bill with your school address on it. Many students, including myself, cannot provide this information and are then left with absentee ballots.
Obtaining an absentee ballot requires at least another 30-day wait period and, depending on the state, proof that you actually need to obtain one. Many states provide absentee ballots to any registered voter, but some states, notably New York and Delaware, make the process more difficult. These states require proof that you cannot make it to a polling location for a variety of speciﬁc reasons.
New voter ID laws are also keeping college students from the polls. States like Pennsylvania have instated stricter identiﬁcation laws that prevent many college students from voting using a student ID. While a number of schools in Pennsylvania have modiﬁed their IDs to allow them to be used at the polls, some other states have restricted identiﬁcation to government-issued IDs, which many students cannot obtain.
I hate to complain about the ability to vote, because quite frankly, it is a spectacular thing that we are able to participate in government. However, to a member of the internet generation, the way in which we vote seems archaic. Registration, application for absentee ballots and casting of votes through absentee ballots are all done through the mail. While I understand that voting security is vital, and computers are notoriously faulty in that respect, it seems our voting system is stuck decades behind modern culture. Furthermore, sorting through the maze of government information on elections can be a dizzying process, especially when you are a student not attending college in your state of origin. A number of students have voiced aggravation with the voting process and many more are simply skipping out on the whole process.
Yet, there are a number of organizations working to help young adults understand exactly how they can vote. Sites like Rockthevote.com have foolproof voter registration, that basically ﬁlls out the forms for you, and sites like Longdistancevoter.org breaks down the mystery of absentee ballots state by state. These sites can communicate the information, but they still cannot ﬁx the annoying quirks of the system.
So while it may seem mysterious that more young adults are not casting their ballots, it may be because of the process of absentee voting. Between understanding your state’s speciﬁc guidelines, applying for an absentee ballot or traveling home and sending the ballot in through snail mail, it is no wonder turnout is so low. We simply do not have enough time to invest.