Julianna Pijar / Gavel Media

The Gavel’s Guide to Voting

In 2020, the percentage of college students who voted in the 2020 election reached an all-time high of 66%, signifying the growing importance of Generation Z’s impact on politics. This superseded the previous presidential election’s turnout of 48%. However, voting for the new adult almost seems like a complicated maze at times. For out-of-state students, it can be confusing to even figure out where to vote. Luckily, for Boston College students, there are tips and services to help navigate voter registration.

Boston College frequently partners with TurboVote, a website that makes it simple to figure out how to vote for one’s respective state. It allows students to register to vote online, verify voter registration, request an absentee ballot form by mail, and receive election reminders all with one service. Per an email sent by Student Affairs of Boston College on September 2nd, other student organizations on campus will also host pop up locations providing information about voting on National Voter Registration Day, which is Tuesday, September 20th. Besides this, there are a lot of different resources to navigate the voting process. General college-specific student voting guides might also help students who have a bunch of questions overall. Sites like yourvotematters.org also provide extensive information for any adult, which can be helpful for referring family members to voting sources.

Registering to vote on TurboVote is relatively easy, but it is still difficult to figure out who to vote for and when. Presidential elections occur on a four year cycle, with midterm elections cycling every two years. 2022 is a year for midterms, which means that the seats for the U.S. The Senate and the House of Representatives are decided with these votes. Additionally, some states will have political races for governors, mayors, and state legislature seats. To find out what seats are up in any given state, most state official websites will have information on the candidates running. Mayoral races occur at the district level, so make sure to check your own district before registering.

For students who live in a different state than Massachusetts, registering to vote may lead to a greater dilemma. Which state is more important? This varies greatly based on the state and the person’s political ideology. Although voting in general is crucial, some states might be a closer race than others. Consider this when figuring out where to register, along with your eligibility to register for certain elections. 

Although all fifty states allow absentee voting, some require an application prior to election day. Only eight states automatically send ballots to eligible voters and only twelve states automatically send applications for absentee ballots. For everywhere else, voters must remember to request these applications before their state’s respective deadlines. There are also five states (Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Indiana, and Louisiana) that require voters to provide an excuse for an absentee ballot. These excuses can sometimes include being a student living outside of one’s original county, but is not always an option. Make sure to check specific state guidelines early to see who is eligible to vote through an absentee ballot.

Sometimes, a state’s specific guidelines may change who can vote in an election. This can be purposeful to avoid college students from participating in their home state's elections. For example, the Texas legislature made it impossible for mobile polling places to function so that college students away from home would have to either travel home to vote or simply not register at all. Often, this is done by Republican officials in efforts to prevent the progressive younger generation from changing election results. This makes it even more important to vote as a college student so that further voter suppression does not occur.

Voter registration closes in the state of Massachusetts on October 29th, regardless of method. For absentee ballots, Massachusetts residents must receive their ballots by November 1st and return them by Election Day, which is November 8th. Even with these deadlines, it is recommended that mail-in ballots should be mailed early, due to the slow nature of USPS. During the 2020 presidential election, USPS delivery slowed down the counting process, which created issues with determining the president elect.

Overall, voter registration may seem lengthy and complicated, but can be completed relatively quickly with the help of physical and online resources. Each state has different laws and regulations, though, so proper attention to your own circumstances helps prevent missed opportunities. Voting is a democratic right that everyone should exercise—especially college students.

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