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viewpoint

You’ve got mail

| Thursday, August 13, 2020

I realized I forgot a few things at home: toothpaste, Scotch tape, my rain coat. After six months of living at home, packing for college was a major extraction effort. Assembling my dorm necessities felt like climbing out from under a rock. What else did I need to re-enter the real world outside of quarantine? Maybe more masks. Probably deodorant. Definitely jeans. It makes sense that I left a few things behind.

One thing I made sure to pack was a sheet of stamps, purchased from my local grocery store. I love sending and receiving mail, and always make sure to come to campus with stamps, envelopes, etc. More important than my favorite Trader Joe’s greetings cards, however, is the absentee ballot application I plan to drop in the mailbox at Holy Cross Hall.

If you forgot anything about returning to college after living at home outside of Indiana, please remember to request a mail-in absentee ballot! Absentee voting — also called mail-in voting — allows registered voters who will not be present on Election Day to send their vote through the mail. If you’re 18 years old and interested in not only exercising your Constitutional rights, but also fulfilling your role in the democratic bargain, you should consider the following steps.

First, find out if you can vote by mail in your state. All states will mail a ballot to voters who meet certain criteria, but election rules and guidelines for mail-in absentee voting vary across the U.S. You can contact your local election office for help, or search for state-specific information through your Secretary of State. Some of these rules may have changed due to COVID-19, so be sure to do your research.

Currently 17 states will fulfill the request for an absentee ballot if the voter provides a valid excuse for their absence; in 28 states and the District of Columbia, voting by absentee ballot requires no excuse. In five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — all registered voters will be provided with a ballot through the mail, as well as the opportunity to vote in person on Election Day.

If you haven’t already, register to vote. You can check your voting status, register to vote and request an absentee ballot at vote.org, the largest non-partisan voting registration and get out the vote technology platform in the U.S. The site is accessible and easy to use, and offers election reminders, polling place locators and other resources.

Once you are registered, use the same site to input your personal information and download an absentee ballot form. This process takes about two minutes, and provides a PDF of your request form for you to sign and date, as well as detailed instructions on how to mail your application.

It’s important to remember that this form must be received by your local election office five days before Election Day on Nov. 3. That’s a little less than 90 days away. If that seems like a long runway, know that I usually plan my Halloween costumes in February and remember how quickly a semester in South Bend can slip away.

As college students, we’re preparing to enter adult lives full of real responsibilities and opportunities — including the ability to participate in our democracy. This year more than ever, it is so important that we vote. We are living at the crux of a debilitating pandemic and a reckoning with racism, structural inequality and policing in the U.S. We are an important and necessary constituency. Let’s make the world we graduate into a better place for everyone.

So register to vote and request an absentee ballot to be mailed to your dorm or off-campus residence. Let me know if you need to borrow a stamp.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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