How to make your vote count: A guide to voting in college

September 29, 2018


(Joshua Murray/Amherst Wire)

AMHERST- With Election Day fast approaching, University of Massachusetts students may feel lost in a sea of news, absentee ballots and opinions. Registering to vote or sending in an absentee ballot may seem like an extraneous task not worth undertaking as midterms loom and classwork piles up. However, navigating the world of elections is simpler than you think.

Here are some common questions — and answers — to help you prepare for Nov. 6:

What am I even voting for?

This upcoming election is a midterm election and likely to be a historic one. It’s the first midterm during Donald Trump’s presidency, and has the potential to shift the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

On the Massachusetts ballot, voters will be able to cast their votes for a U.S. Senator, U.S. House Representative, Governor, State Senator, State Representative, and other state executives.

What are these questions I keep seeing lawn signs for?

You’ve likely passed several “Vote Yes/No” signs scattered throughout Amherst. These signs are referring to three major questions up for debate on the Massachusetts ballot.

Question One refers to a move to restrict patient-to-nurse limits in Massachusetts hospitals, and would fine hospitals that do not comply.

Question Two, if passed, would create a commission on limiting election spending and corporate rights.

And finally, Question Three is a proposal to repeal a 2016 state law that banned places of public accommodation — such as restrooms, restaurants and parks — from discriminating against transgender individuals.

You can find more information about the benefits and disadvantages of these issues here.

(Justin Grimes/Flickr)

How do I register to vote?

Over the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen every app from Snapchat to Instagram handing out links to help vote. Even Tinder is encouraging young singles to go cast their votes.

It’s not too late to register if you haven’t yet! The deadline to register to vote online, in person, or via mail is Wednesday, Oct. 17.

You can chose to register in the town of Amherst using your local or school address. If you do this, you may be eligible to vote on campus on Nov. 6.

If you chose to register using your hometown address, you can print out a copy of the National Voter Registration Form online and mail it to your local election office, or register to vote in person in your hometown if you’re home on a long weekend.

If you are an in-state student, you are eligible to register entirely online. You can register to vote online here.

If you are out-of-state, check your state policies online.

What if I’m not in my hometown on Election Day?

For many students, going home just to vote is unrealistic. Luckily, it’s still simple to vote in the upcoming election even if you can’t make it to your home state or town.

In order to vote, you need to request an absentee ballot. This ballot will allow you to vote via mail. Simply search “Absentee Ballot Request” online, fill out some information (this should take you less than 15 minutes), and print out the completed form. Then, mail it to your local election officer (this will be on the form) or deliver it in person if your hometown is close by.

You should receive a ballot in the mail prior to Election Day. Vote, then mail it back. Done!

Here is a link to request an absentee ballot in Massachusetts.

When is Early Voting?

In Massachusetts, early voting will take place between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2. Early voting will be open to all Massachusetts voters, no excuse required. Each town and city in the state will have at least one voting location open during these days and it takes little time.

If you are registered to vote in Amherst, use this link to check which polling station you should report to.

I’m not really a “political” kind of person…

Although you may not watch the news religiously or cozy up with a livestream of the Senate floor meetings each week, politics still affect you in ways you may not be aware of.

The bitterness and fiery debates of modern politics can turn many young people away. Many millennials feel indifferent about the political climate, or have no information about hot button issues. In the age of “fake news” and tense discussions, it’s hard to know where to begin.

The simple answer is to get educated. Watch videos explaining all sides of an issue, read fact-based articles and talk to friends and family. Try to solidify what you think is most important. Get a conversation started!

Why should I care?

The millennial generation is close to surpassing baby boomers as the largest voting demographic, meaning your vote holds a lot of power.

Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and one of the greatest powers you hold. Fed up with the status quo? Want more privatization, or more environmental protections? You have the power to make it happen.

So go out and vote this November!

Email Katherine at [email protected]

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