In a year as, er, controversial as this one, a lot of people are psyched to vote…or not psyched, but just obligated. Whatever the case may be, it’s still important that you vote. A lot of college students who are out-of-state during election season have opted out of voting for local elections, but this one’s big and nation-wide.
If you’re a US citizen, you can vote in the federal election! If you are a permanent resident or are undocumented, you may be eligible to vote on the local and state levels, but your eligibility varies by state.
And, even if you’re not home right now because of college, work, interning, or just strange timing, you can still vote. In just a few simple steps, you too can cast your absentee ballot despite not being home for the (federal) holidays.
1. Get yourself registered.
Getting registered is really quick, and you might have even done it already if you’ve gotten a new state ID since the beginning of 2016 (even if you weren’t 18 yet). If you still need to do it, your deadline is Tuesday, October 11. You can either fill out the form at the DMV, fill out a registration card and mail it in, or play it simple and just do it online. You’ll need either your state ID number or your social security number.
As a side note, you can complete voter registration in-person on the day of the election in some areas, but you’ll have to prove your identity
If you’re not sure if you’ve registered already, you can check online by going to this site and finding your state’s board of elections. They won’t ask you for more information than your name, birthday, and address.
2. Request your absentee ballot.
This is the easy part…unless you need to buy stamps.
You can download a printable PDF of the absentee ballot request form online from your state’s board of elections. Make sure you send it in early enough! There is a lot of variation by state, but in general you can mail this form in up until 7 days before the election date. You can also hand-deliver it to local elections officials.
3. Uh, vote.
Now that you’re registered and signed up for the absentee ballot, the only thing left to do is actually vote. Make sure you’re checking your mail and that you return your completed ballot by the deadline date. If it misses the deadline, it won’t be counted!
Even if it’s a tough, heartbreaking decision that you have to make, just remember that this is not the end-all to the political process. Vote for someone you think will make the most progress toward the values that you find important, and will be receptive to criticism in a constructive way.
Also, don’t forget about the non-presidential elections that will be happening this year. State senators have a lot of power, and if you care strongly about issues like immigration policy and living wages, senators are at the forefronts of those battles.
Basically, don’t let 2016 be the year you don’t cast a vote, because we kind of need it.