It was junior Kristen Lilley’s first time voting in her state’s primary elections last week. She chose to request an absentee ballot for her home state of Virginia. Lilley said she used the online site TurboVote and went through an easy registration process.
Lilley printed and filled out her Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). A ballot was then sent to her Elon University campus box address.
She chose to vote in her home state because Virginia has historically been a competitive state.
“Virginia can tend to be more of a swing state, but it usually tends to go blue,” Lilley said. “Since I was voting in the Democratic primary, I felt like my vote would matter more there.”
On a campus where about 27 percent of the student body comes from North Carolina, out-of-state students often have the opportunity to vote in the place they consider “home.”
On Elon’s campus, Elon Votes! encourages students to vote in their home states. The organization is geared toward providing students with all the necessary resources to register to vote.
Many students like Lilley opt to fill out absentee ballots in an effort to make the most impact in their respective states.
Absentee voting is typically conducted by a mail-in ballot before primary dates. Though the instructions, restrictions and processes of application differ by state, any person who wishes to fill out an absentee ballot begins with a federal postcard application sent to his or her place of residence. The FPCA acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form.
The voter may then return the ballot either in person or by mail. Some select states will let voters apply for an absentee ballot in person before the election and then vote that same day. But since some students might not be able to present themselves in person on the election day, they are encouraged to apply for absentee rights at least 30 days before the election.
Twenty-one states require voters to provide an excuse for voting by absentee ballot. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia offer no-excuse absentee voting. But all states allow college students to vote in their respective home state through an absentee ballot.
Sophomore Gabrielle Vance works for Elon Votes! and said her motivation to be student leader in the organization came from her own frustrations regarding absentee voting last fall.
“I was confused on how to do it,” Vance said. “I had to print out all these forms and send them to my state electorate. I didn’t have the time.”
Elon Votes! decided to take more initiative in providing all students the proper resources for absentee voting because most students live outside of the Tar Heel State.
“We talk about civic engagement a lot on this campus, but when I tried to figure it out and vote on my own, I didn’t have the resources,” Vance said.
Looking into ways to make the process easier, Elon Votes! started working with TurboVote, an online voter registration system that expedites the process of applying for an absentee ballot by limiting the time and paperwork involved.
“It only takes five minutes,” Vance said. “Elon students are so busy. That’s why we stress that it only takes a few minutes.”
TurboVote also had representatives come to campus in the fall and help more students register.
“People don’t understand that men and women before us fought hard for us to have this right and we shouldn’t take it for granted,” Vance said. “We really do have the opportunity for our voices to be heard.”