In the 2016 presidential election, it is estimated that more than a third of all votes may have been cast prior to Election Day, according to statistician Nate Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight.
Early voting is generally split into in-person voting, and mail-in/absentee ballots. New York Magazine said that early voting is expected to make up anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the votes cast this election.
Early and absentee voting have been a large part of the electoral process in recent elections, and could have a big impact on this one. In the article on FIveThirtyEight, author Christianna Silva explores the American “love” for early voting, as well as the impact and role it has played in the most recent elections. Many college students explore this option while away at school.
“I wanted to get my voice out there. I think it’s a little ridiculous that we don’t have the day off from class to go vote,” junior journalism major Sam Murray said. Murray is unable to vote in person on election day, so he opted to vote early. “I wanted to make sure I could vote. A lot of people complain about things in this country, but then they don’t get off their a—s and vote. I care about what I believe in, so I wanted to make sure I got out there to vote.”
Some states, such as Washington, Oregon and Colorado, hold their elections by mail. They do, however, offer in-person voting for those who wish to do so. Yet an overwhelming majority of the votes cast in these three states are done by mail, and a good portion of them are completed early.
There are not many states that conduct their elections this way. But what is common in every state is the option to vote via absentee ballot.
Some states, including Rhode Island, New Jersey and Maine, do not require a reason to be given in order to vote by absentee ballot, and offer this option to any registered voter. Other states have much harsher guidelines one must follow before getting their absentee ballot in the mail.
Whatever the reason may be, absentee voting is a viable option for many different kinds of people, who may have various reasons they cannot get themselves to a voting booth on Nov. 8. College students are a prime example of this.
“I’m glad that during such an integral election for this country, we still have the chance to cast our votes,” senior general business major Louis Martocchio said of his experience voting via absentee ballot.
Of the thousands of students enrolled at the University of Rhode Island, roughly 45 percent are out-of-state students. With 44 states and territories represented by the student population, excluding the international students, it would be impractical for students to go back to their home states on the morning of Nov. 8 to vote in person.
“I was worried about not being able to vote in this election since I’m away at school, but luckily the absentee ballot made voting really uncomplicated,” junior film major Joe Bierman said. “A Google search guided me in the right directions. Bernie [Sanders] would be proud.”
Early voting expert and University of Florida professor Michael McDonald separates early votes into two different categories: those who want to do it, and those who have to do it. The latter category typically consists of older people who may not be able to travel to voting booths, as well as young, on-the-move people, such as college students.
Because of these reasons, early voting, and more specifically absentee voting, is an integral part of the electoral process and one of the best ways for college students to participate in their American right to vote. For many college students, the 2016 election will mark the first in which they are able to cast a vote for their nation’s leader; and for many, it has been a very divisive campaign season. As the trend in early voting continues to grow, as it has over the past several elections, so should the number of absentee voters. For the college students away from their home state, they should never feel without a political voice.