NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 30th, 2022

Casting your ballot in the coming midterms: A guide for college-bound Northwesterners

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.

While it is not ille­gal to be reg­is­tered to vote in mul­ti­ple states, most states auto­mat­i­cal­ly unreg­is­ter vot­ers who have moved. 

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. 

Hap­py voting!

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