A smart student’s guide to voting in November

Infographic by Brooklyn Valera | The Signal

Panthers, it’s time to elect a president. According to NPR, 18 to 35-year-olds now constitute the country’s largest voting bloc, composing approximately 31% of the electorate. Despite the high number of eligible voters, young people are also the least likely to vote. This election, students can make history. 

The New York Times reported that 2016 presidential election exit polls revealed that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was expected to win by a landslide of 85%

The outcome of the 2016 election was far from expected by the media and polling results. Politico reported that Georgia voted majority red by just 5.7%. The state election came down to 200,000 votes.

This November, Georgia is one of eight states where the election is expected to be secured. As an official swing state, each vote will determine who will serve as the U.S.’s 46th president. 

Regardless of political stances, voting is essential in making an impact in the presidential election. When getting ready to vote, here are a few things to consider:

Step one: Check your eligibility.

Make sure you can vote by going through the following checklist:

  • Must be an American citizen
  • Must be 18 years old 
  • Cannot be serving a sentence or have committed a felony
  • Cannot be deemed legally incompetent

Step two: Register to vote.

Make sure you have registered to vote through the Georgia Online Voter Registration system. Remember, the final day to register to vote is Monday, October 5.

Alongside voter registration, make sure you and your family have filled out the U.S. census form. Every ten years, the federal government sends out a survey that checks the national population. By filling out the census, appropriate resources and funds are distributed. The census helps allocate hospitals, schools and divide voting polls as well. 

The census is due by September 30 and is required to be completed according to the U.S. Constitution. The form takes less than 10 minutes to complete and can be found here

Step three: Confirm your voter status.

One of the essential steps in registering to vote is checking your voter registration status. Often, many people are barred from voting for several reasons. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Georgia reportedly did not count approximately 87,000 votes, making it the nation’s most extensive voting purge. 

In the 2018 gubernatorial election, state voter disenfranchisement was reported particularly around Black and brown communities. Frustration was apparent, with many not being able to submit their ballot. 

“I stayed in line despite a three-hour-and-10-minute wait because my ancestors sacrificed too much for me to be stopped from exercising my right to vote,” Raney Branch, a Black American, told The Washington Post. “The volunteers told us they were not allowed to test the ballot machines before 7 a.m. How are people supposed to know the machines work if they can’t test them first? Makes no sense.”

It is also incredibly crucial to make sure you are registered to vote in your desired county and voting booth. College students are often registered to vote on-campus or in their hometown, so make sure you are voting from the correct location — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where student locations often vary.

Georgia allows voters are also given the option to declare their political party affiliation. Your voter ballot may be reflective of either party candidates.

Step four: Absentee ballots and voting in-person

Voters are given the option to submit an absentee ballot or vote in-person this November. Each route has its pros and cons. Georgia allows everyone to vote by absentee ballot if they desire, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, voters were more than likely to vote by absentee.

As listed above, voters faced many obstacles in submitting their ballot in the primary election in Georgia. Many voters in counties surrounding Atlanta stood in line for hours due to paper ballot and machine voting discrepancies. With the primaries ending just a few months back, it is essential to stay wary of these issues.

Mail-in ballots have their drawbacks as well. A recent trend of U.S. Postal Service mailbox removals has worried some lawmakers and constituents, and mail delivery has slowed down across the country.

If this trend continues, the Postal Service has warned Americans that it might not deliver their absentee ballot in time. Voters are encouraged to submit their absentee ballot as soon as possible to ensure their vote is counted.

If you plan to vote by absentee ballot, the final day to request a ballot is October 30th on the Georgia.gov website. Note that the request form acceptance, deliverance and voter acceptance takes several days. All ballots must be premarked before the election date.

If you plan to vote in person, understand that your safety comes first. Consider necessary CDC guidelines and prepare for a long line. Also, make sure to bring a legal government ID to the polls. 

Early voting begins from October 12-30. Election day is November 3.

As a student, you can help make a monumental impact in your community besides voting. 

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation faces a poll worker shortage since most U.S. poll workers are over 60 years old and at the highest risk of contracting the disease.

Georgia State alumnus and 2019-20 Panther of the Year Evan Mabrough was able to kickstart the Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project. 

Helping start up one of the country’s first student-run polls at Georgia State, Malbrough created the student initiative to promote youth involvement as a poll worker. So far, he has recruited over 500 students aged 16 and up. For more information about the program, or to register as a paid volunteer, visit the Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project webpage.

Being a young voter today is not enough. You must pay attention to the laws, regulations and steps you can take to be a productive American. As a student, you have a unique opportunity to understand American politics and how it affects you today. 

For more information on either presidential candidate, view their policies here.