Author: Emily Shugerman
Between all the politicking and debate that takes place on Occidental’s campus, it is easy to forget the simplest way to exercise democratic rights: voting. Constrained by strict class schedules, isolated without a car and continually fed misinformation on voting procedures, students can become particularly apathetic toward voting. But with the vote-by-mail application deadline approaching in less than a month, now is the time for students to educate themselves on voting processes to make sure their voice is heard come election day.
For those voting in-state, voting is as simple as applying for a mail-in ballot by Oct. 28, or finding a nearby polling place to visit on Nov. 4. But in-state voters should keep in mind that they must re-apply to vote when they move addresses, so first-years and those moving off campus this year should confirm their standing. For those who miss the mail-in deadline, not having a car is no excuse for not getting to the physical polls — the Bengal Bus drives students to polling places each year.
Students registered to vote out-of-state should be equally alert and check their home state’s deadlines to apply for a mail-in ballot. This is especially important for students voting in swing states such as Colorado and Ohio; states in which both major-party candidates have a fair shot at the plurality of the votes. While registering to vote in California may seem easier, voting in a swing state is one of the most effective ways to make your vote count.
All students should take this opportunity to dispel some of the most common myths about registering to vote. The idea that registering to vote will affect students’ financial aid is false — registering to vote in another state will not affect Pell Grants, Perkins and Stafford Loans, SMART grants and even most state-based sources of aid. Registering in another state will also not force students off their parents’ healthcare policy or prevent their parents from receiving a tax break. Such myths bear little semblance to the truth and are an attempt to stifle the student vote.
By staying up-to-date on registration deadlines, arming themselves against common voting myths and creating a plan for election day, students can—and should—overcome the obstacles to student voting. If we cannot muster the time and energy to exercise this crucial democratic right, then we should feel ashamed to raise our hands in politics class.
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