August is an exciting time of the year for many young people. Instead of returning back to well-trodden high school corridors, graduates are preparing to move to other cities or states to attend college. Some of us are also turning eighteen or have recently come of age, and thus consequently are newly eligible voters.
When I took my ballot out of my mailbox for the first time, I was eager to finally vote. I will be voting in a contentious midterm cycle that could determine whether reproductive autonomy and voting rights endure in this country.
At the same time, I was curious about my options for participating in our democracy after I head to off to college. For instance, I wondered: Would I be eligible to vote in California while I was studying there in November?
If you or someone you know is in a position similar to mine, here’s what you need to do to be prepared to vote this summer and autumn.
All aspiring voters must first join the rolls before they are eligible to cast a ballot. Voter registration looks different for different states, so online tools like vote.gov can help outline the steps you will need to take to register or update your registration to vote based on your jurisdiction.
Keep in mind that some states require voters to have registered a certain number of days before Election Day and may specify a certain number of days required to establish residency for the purposes of voting in the jurisdiction. If you pre-registered to vote when you were younger than eighteen, you can check the status of your voter registration using resources like voteamerica.com.
You can choose to make sure that you have been unregistered in your previous home state by following the instructions here.
It is of course illegal and unethical to vote more than once. You can only cast one ballot per election, even if you’re on the rolls in more than one jurisdiction.
Students generally get a choice: they can vote in their home state or the one that they will be attending college in, and it’s possible to switch between elections.
However, first term college students who will be voting in a new state should keep in mind that different states have different voting requirements. For example, some states require constituents to present state-issued IDs to cast ballots; others, like Washington, provide mail-in ballots for all residents, and others still require voters to make the trek to the polls. Vote.org has a useful tool to help you locate in-person voting centers if your campus doesn’t have its own.
For voters who want to vote in their home state despite attending school in a different state, absentee ballots are the way to go. These ballots will be mailed to your school address, and you will mail them back to your home state after filling out your vote. You can request your absentee ballot here. Make sure to keep the rules and deadlines for absentee ballots in mind when determining when to vote!
After casting your ballot, you can keep an eye on its status using a ballot tracker. If your state does not have an online ballot tracker, you can reach out to your local election office to ask for information about your ballot.
Regardless of where you decide to vote in the future, make sure to get your ballots in on time so that your votes will count. Voting in Washington’s Top Two election ends on Tuesday, August 2nd at 8 PM. Ballots must be in drop boxes by then, or be in the mail by the last outgoing collection time that day.