The Presidential Election 2012: Voter Information For College Students

What’s so special about 2012? Despite what some would have you think, it’s not the end of the world. While the start of the next “great cycle” is something to celebrate, 2012 is special because it’s an election year. Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 marks the 57th presidential election. Youth and college students compose a critical voting bloc; and as such are often targeted by politicians and political activists to “get out and vote.” No matter what your political affiliation, it’s important to know about your rights as a voter, especially as a college student.

Remember to Register

Being registered to vote is the most important step in the voting process, for if you’re not registered you won’t be allowed to cast a ballot. It’s important to know what your state of residence mandates, as every state’s voter registration laws differ. Eight states: Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Wyoming allow Election Day voting registration, but all other states require eligible citizens to register anywhere from 15-30 days before an election. You may see groups on campus that will help you register to vote, but one of the easiest ways to register is to check your state’s website; there you can download a voter registration application, fill it out, and send it in to your local election office.

Once you have registered to vote you will receive a sample ballot in the mail, which includes not only all of the candidate information, but also lists your polling place; this is where you will physically go on Election Day to cast your ballot. Also be sure to check out what kind of I.D. your state accepts. Recently, states have been passing stricter voter I.D. laws. While these measures are presumably meant to cut down on voter fraud, they more often than not disenfranchise eligible voters. While some states accept school I.Ds, others require either a passport or a valid drivers license to vote. If you don’t have either of these forms of identification and reside in a state with restrictive voting laws, you may be told that you are not eligible to vote. According to a study by Mother Jones, 18% of eligible 18-24-year-olds do not have valid photo IDs. Know your rights. Make sure you know your state laws before you head out to vote. Some government websites offer printable documents outlining student voting rights, like this one from Minnesota.

You Can Only Register and Vote In One State

This is pertinent information for many college students who go to school out of state. For example, while I go to school and rent an apartment in Illinois, I consider Minnesota to be my true place of residence. I am registered to vote in Minnesota because I am far more informed about Minnesota politics, and there are several key ballot measures this election year that I want to vote on. If you go to school out of state, take time to think about which place you consider your true place of residence; you can register using your campus residence if you consider that to be your true home or if you feel you will be a more informed voter voting in that state.

Don’t assume that just because you live far away from home that you cannot vote. If you wish to vote in your home state but do not reside there during the school year, or if you will be studying abroad this fall, you can always fill out and send in an absentee ballot.

What is an Absentee Ballot?

If you know you will be absent from your precinct on Election Day, then you can turn in an absentee ballot, as I have done. This means that even though I will be living in Chicago at election time, I will be able to send in a ballot for Minnesota. The process is not as arduous as it may sound. Once you register and receive your ballot in the mail, you can send it in by mail in the pre-paid envelope that is provided to you. You can also check the status of your ballot online. Again, check your state’s website for information on registering for an absentee ballot.

Exercise Your Rights!

This November make sure to get out and vote. If you aren’t following the presidential race very closely but want to become more informed about political issues or even the political process itself, many colleges offer political science classes during election years that focus solely on the election. These classes can be both fun and informative.

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Brianna Low

Brianna Low

Brianna Low is a rising senior at DePaul University pursuing a double major in English and Spanish. Brianna enjoys reading, writing, and traveling. She currently works for DePaul's Art Department as a receptionist and hopes to one day work in a library. Brianna is happiest when surrounded by books.
Brianna Low

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