The 2020 election is getting closer every day, so now is the time to get registered to vote. With impending judicial nominations and the climate crisis growing more severe by the minute, not to mention dozens of other issues, voting for the future you want is more essential now than ever.
Lauren Harvey, the Associate Director of Government Relations for ASUU, said that “the sheer amount of items on the ballot should get students excited to vote.” Of these items, she mentioned that the ballot initiative to remove mentions of slavery from the Utah State Constitution should grab students’ attention.
For students and first-time voters, this process may seem daunting. I’ve been going through it myself. I know I have a duty to vote and couldn’t be more excited to have a say in our government. Not only do I recognize that my vote will contribute to deciding the next president, but it also directly affects our campus community. According to Harvey, our elected officials determine “pandemic protocols, safety issues, cost of tuition, resources available to students, and much more.”
Current college students in Utah are eligible to register to vote as residents of Utah, or they can register in their home state and request an absentee ballot. We face unique challenges in voting, but there are clear processes we can follow to make sure our voices are heard in this election — whether we’re voting in Utah or getting out-of-state absentee ballots.
There are a lot of barriers to college students’ participation in elections, many of which are further complicated by the pandemic. Kyle Tucker, the administrative program coordinator for the Hinckley Institute of Politics, points out that because college students move so often, we constantly need to update our voter registration or vote absentee from our home addresses. Another problem voters will experience this election season is that President Trump intends to make it harder to vote by mail. However, because of COVID-19, mail-in voting will be the most convenient and the safest option.
The good news is that Utah automatically sends mail-in ballots to voters registered in the state. If you live on campus and aren’t planning on visiting home to check your mail ahead of time, you need to change your address at least 7 days prior to Election Day to have your ballot sent to your dorm. To change your address, either contact 385-468-7400 or [email protected] at least eleven days before the election — so no later than October 23 at 5:00 PM.
I personally struggled with making sure that my address was confirmed since the address of my brand-new dorm building wasn’t USPS verified. Students who have similar concerns should make sure to track and confirm their absentee ballot requests through their state’s online portal. Give yourself plenty of time to handle the process so you can vote in time for your voice to be counted.
But let’s go back and break this process down from the beginning. How do you register to vote in Utah? If you have been living on campus in Utah since the start of the semester, you are eligible to vote in Utah for this coming election cycle. In addition to being 18 years old, you have to have been a resident of Utah for at least 30 days prior to the election in order to vote. You can register to vote online or by filling out a form and mailing it to your county clerk. Whichever method you choose, make sure your registration form is received at least 11 days before the election — ideally sooner. Students can also register in person at their county clerk’s office up to seven days before the election.
To help you with these steps, Tucker mentioned that the U uses a service called TurboVote to assist students with the voter registration process. I wish I had known about this since it has campus dorm addresses pre-programmed, alleviating the difficulties I experienced by having an on-campus address.
According to Tucker, there will also be a polling location at the Huntsman Center. U officials and the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office are working to find safe ways for students to cast their ballots.
For those of you planning to vote as an out-of-state resident, check your state’s policies and follow their instructions to register. Then send your absentee ballot to your campus address instead of the home address on your registration. Make sure to find out when your voter registration deadline is and pay attention to the postmark date if you can only register by mail.
Now that you’ve registered and requested an absentee ballot, find out when your absentee ballot will be sent to you so you have an idea of when to expect it. Most states offer a form of ballot tracking.
Once your ballot has arrived, do some research to learn about the people and potential laws you need to vote on — not just the presidential candidates. Vote for the candidates and policies that reflect your personal views, not just what your friends and family believe. Finally, make sure to pay attention to the postmark deadline for sending your ballot back.
Voting as a college student can be a complicated process, but there are plenty of on-campus resources available to help us through this process — especially since Lauren Harvey is available through email to answer any remaining questions you may have about voting. Now is the time for us to raise our voices through our nation’s electoral process. As young people, we inherit the problems that our lawmakers create or neglect. It’s on us to help elect people and vote for policies that will strengthen our future. There is so much at stake — and now that you have all this information, there is no excuse for electoral apathy in this election.