As a junior in college, I have witnessed classmates choosing not to vote because they view the voting process away from home as complicated; they do not understand what they have to do to be able to vote while at school.
As a political science major at Central College, I have been urging my friends to register to vote and to sign up for an absentee ballot so they can make their voice heard in the November elections. I believe that confusion about voting while at school is part of the reason that the voter turnout for the age group of 18 to 29 is so low.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in the 2016 presidential election, only 41 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds voted. That’s extremely low compared to other age groups: 59 percent for those 30 to 44; 67 percent for those 45 to 64; and 71 percent for those 65 or older. It seems the older you get, the more you realize the importance of your vote.
But things may be looking up. The 18 to 29 group was the only group to see an increase in voter turnout in the 2012 midterm elections. To continue this upward trend, 18- to 29-year-old must continue to voice their political preferences.
Not all college students realize that before they vote, they have to register to vote. Students and anyone else in Iowa can do this online at www.sos.iowa.gov (as long as they have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator ID).
Not sure if you’re registered or, where you are registered? In Iowa, you can check online at www.sos.iowa.gov. (Another important note: In Iowa, you can register to vote right at the polling place, immediately before you vote.) You can check the website of the Secretary of State or elections official in your home state at www.nass.org/membership.
Another key source of confusion for college students is where to register and where to vote. The fact is that you can register to vote (and then vote) at your home address OR your school address, but not both.
For even easier voting, I encourage my fellow college students to vote early with a so-called “absentee ballot.” An absentee ballot is a great way for college students to vote in their home state or to vote early in Iowa.
Absentee ballots also allow you to avoid any lines on Election Day at polling places, to look up the different issues that are on the ballot to be able to make informed decisions, and to take your time.
One way to get an absentee ballot is request that one be mailed to you. You can do this online. You can also print a request form, fill it out, and mail it to the appropriate election officials office by the deadline on the form.
Don’t let excuses hold you back. It’s important that the voice of young people in our country be heard. Vote in the November election.
Henry Klaassen is from St. Joseph, Missouri and a junior at Central College in Pella. He is studying political science and communications and is an intern at the ACLU of Iowa.