10 Reasons Why Your Vote as a College Student Actually Matters
Thinking Your Vote Won't Count Seriously Sells Yourself Short
Feel like your vote really won't make a difference? Not sure if going out and voting is really worth the effort? These ten reasons should give you some food for thought -- and demonstrate why your vote counts more now than ever.
Ten Reasons Why Your Vote as a College Student Actually Matters
- America is a democracy. True, it may be a representative democracy, but your elected representatives still need to know how their constituents think in order to accurately represent them. They are counting on your vote as part of that process.
- Remember Florida? The debacle in Florida that followed the 2000 presidential election is still fresh in many people's minds. Try asking those folks if your vote matters or not.
- No one else votes with college students in mind. Many people vote while thinking of other constituencies: older folks, people without health insurance, and the like. But very few voters are focused specifically on the needs of college students. When issues like student loan rates, educational standards, and admissions policies are on the ballot, who else is better qualified to vote than those currently experiencing the implications of such initiatives?
- College students -- also known as millennial voters -- are a key constituency in any, and every, election. With 44 million millennial voters eligible to vote, your vote can make a huge difference when banded with others in your demographic.
- Millennial voters are more diverse than any other constituency. According to Rock the Vote, "Sixty-one percent of Millennials identify as White, while 17% are Hispanic, 15% are Black and 4% are Asian." Who else is going to vote to represent the needs of such a diverse constituency?
- No one likes a hypocrite. You're in college. You're expanding your mind, your spirit, your life. You're challenging yourself in new and exciting ways and learning things you may not have ever considered before. But when the time comes, you're going to pass on empowering yourself by voting? Really?
- Many people fought for your right to vote. No matter your race, gender or age, your right to vote came at a price. Honor the sacrifices others made so that your voice could be heard when theirs wasn't.
- College voters really can swing an election. As Rock the Vote reports in its (fantastic), "Joe Courtney won by 83 votes; turnout at the UConn polling place was up nearly 10x that" in Connecticut in 2006. Want to call Courtney's opponent, or even Courtney himself, to see if every vote matters?
- Within the next 4 years, you may be getting a job, owning or renting your own housing, getting married, starting a family, paying for health care, or building a business. The policies you vote for today will have a huge influence on your life after college. Do you really want to leave those decisions up to someone else?
- You're living life as an adult now. Despite conventional attitudes about college students not being in the "real world," much of your daily life involves very serious and important decisions. You manage your finances; you are taking charge of your education and career; you are doing your best, every day, to improve yourself through higher education. In essence, you are becoming an adult (if you aren't one already). Your vote, then, matters most because you are finally able to cast it. Go voice your opinions on issues, policies, candidates, and referendums. Stand up for what you believe in. Vote!
In the state of Colorado, you need a Colorado driver's license, a Colorado Department of Revenue identification number, or the last four digits of your social security number to register to vote in person. When you get your driver's license, you can automatically register to vote at the DMV. The last day to register to vote in a specific election is 29 days before that election.
Voter Registration Requirements:
- You must be a U.S. citizen.
- You must be 18 years of age on or before the date of the election.
- You must reside in Colorado at your present address for at least 30 days before the election.
For voter registration forms, please visit the Colorado Secretary of State website. The form takes 20 days to process. If you do not have a Colorado driver's license, additional identification may be required if registering to vote by mail.
Voting and Criminal Convictions:
In Colorado, convicted felons keep the right to vote as long as they have served their sentence and are not currently on parole. Felons currently incarcerated or on parole cannot vote. However, if you are in jail or on parole for a misdemeanor, you can still vote.
Clearly, the main thing to do on election day is vote. Unfortunately, voting can often be a confusing process. Here is a brief guide designed to answer some common election day questions.
Where do I vote?
Although the majority of local elections are held through mail-in ballots, polling locations are available throughout the state of Colorado for major elections. If you are already registered to vote, you can find the nearest polling place at Elections Information for Voters.
- Many states mail out sample ballots weeks before the election. It probably lists where you vote. You may have also gotten a notice from your local elections office after you registered. It may also list your polling place.
- Call your local elections office. It will be listed in the government pages of your phone book.
- Ask a neighbor. People who live in the same apartment complex, on the same street, block, etc., usually vote at the same place.
If you polling place has changed since the last general election, your elections office should have sent you a notice in the mail.
When can I vote?
- In most states, polls open between 6 and 8 in the morning and close between 6 and 9 in the evening. Once again, call your local elections office for the exact hours.
- Typically, if you are in line to vote by the time the polls close, you will be allowed to vote.
- To avoid long lines, vote between 10am and 5pm.
- To avoid potential traffic problems at busy polling places, consider carpooling. Take a friend to vote.
What should I bring to the polls?
- It is a good idea to bring a form of photo identification with you. Some states require photo ID. You should also bring a form of ID that shows your current address. Even in states that do not require ID, poll workers sometimes ask for it, so it's a good idea to bring your ID, anyway. If you registered by mail, you will need to produce your ID the first time you vote.
- You might also want to bring your sample ballot on which you have marked your selections, or notes on how you want to vote.
What if I'm not on the registered voter list?
When you sign in at the polling place, your name will be checked against a list of registered voters. If your name is not on the list of registered voters at that polling place, you CAN still vote.
Ask the poll worker to check again. They should be able to check a statewide list. You may be registered to vote, but at another location.
If your name is not on the list, you can still vote on a "provisional ballot." This ballot will be counted separately. After the election, officials will determine if you are eligible to vote and add your ballot to the official count.
What if I have a disability?
Federal law requires that polling places be accessible to persons with disabilities. But if you want to make sure you will be able to vote, it is best to call your local election office before election day. Inform them of your disability and that you will need an accessible polling place.
Starting in 2006, federal law will require that every polling place must provide a way for people with disabilities to vote privately and independently.
What are my rights as a voter?
- Equal treatment and opportunity to register and vote, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex or disability.
- Privacy - only you should know how you voted.
- Having your vote accurately counted and recorded.
- If you have a disability, access to a voting device you can use, along with appropriate assistance.
- Help in voting from poll workers IF you ask for it.
- Courtesy and respect from poll workers, election officials and all others at the polling place.