Don’t Know How to Vote? Here’s the 411 for Election 2008


Published: October 2, 2008

Voting season is upon us, and during such a heated political time, some people have forgotten about the simpler things in life—the minor details, like registering to vote. For college students, the voting process can feel like the final step to cement their stars on the Grown-up Walk of Fame. But with so many applications, deadlines and decisions, there are millions of questions running through a student’s mind.  Do I register to vote on campus or somewhere back home? What if I can’t return home for Election Day? What is an absentee ballot, and how do I get one? So once I fill out this, apply for that, send this in and go do that…what’s next?

Here’s the DL: One of the qualifications for being able to vote is having an established address for at least 30 days, in which case a college student can legally register to vote at either a school dormitory or a home address. There is no law that specifies which address one must use, as long as the address one registers with is the same location that the vote is cast in and one doesn’t vote twice in one election.

Once registered, those who decide to vote in their home state but cannot be there on Election Day should request the Absentee Ballot Application Form from their local county board, or use the site for easy access to forms and deadlines (thank you 21st century). These requests can be made no earlier than 30 days before the election and are due to the registered state or location, by mail or hand-delivery, no later than Election Day.

With the lengthy, confusing registration process out of the way, which location should students choose to vote at, especially with such debate regarding the legality of voting at school? The truth is there is no right answer; this controversy stems from universities and political figures who feel it is unfair for non-residential students to be a major component of a community’s electoral representation. One student may feel voting at school represents the separation from home and the start of a new life, whereas another may feel attached to a home community. Chris Schneller, FCLC ’10, who claims the government “doesn’t make the process simple,” decided to register in his home state because he wanted to support his town. “Register at a place where you want to vote in that community,” Schneller advised other students regarding local and state elections.

A recent New York Times article reported that, at a voter-registration drive at Virginia Tech, students were being threatened with “a range of dire possibilities” for registering at their school, but Sujatha Jahagirdar, program director of the New Voters Project, explained she had never seen any student lose scholarships, insurance or status due to registering at school during her years working on college campuses.

According to FCLC political science professor and international studies program director, Thomas DeLuca, students have the right to choose where they will vote depending on “the community they’ll be at during the election,” especially considering how “some citizens who own more than one home may make a choice as to where they vote.”

Of course, the real issue regarding the presidential election isn’t where you are going to place your ballot.  “Think about what you really feel is important to you with regards to what direction you think the nation should go in,” explains DeLuca, “Then research the parties and the candidates and vote according to
your beliefs.”

Now, there’s only one subject left to cover: who to vote for. Well, the answer to that question is left up to you.