October 29, 2020
Millions of college students anxiously check their mailboxes, waiting for their absentee ballots. With students being away from home and out of state, many of them rely on mailing in their ballots to ensure that their voices are heard in both local and national elections. But due to COVID-19, the number of requests for absentee ballots in all demographics have spiked as voters fear for their safety at the polls.
In what is hopefully not a new normal, it is important to be aware of deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot as well as for submitting it. Deadlines vary by state. For Michigan, the deadline to request an absentee ballot is October 30th by 5 pm. The ballot must be delivered to your local clerk’s office by 8 P.M on November 3rd, election day. It is advised to request a ballot as soon as possible to ensure your vote is counted. Every vote matters.
Pre-coronavirus, absentee ballots were still very popular among college students. Most students are living on or near campus and aren’t able to make it home to vote. Michigan State University also has a huge portion of students who are from out of state. It is not realistic for them to travel home for the election.
Rachel Powell, a senior at MSU studying hospitality business, is currently going through this situation. Powell is from Texas, and she has faced difficulties receiving her absentee ballot. She requested her absentee ballot about two months ago and still has not received her ballot. As the date of the election grows closer, Powell is getting more nervous. She has contacted her local office in her county, but they had no information about her ballot and no way of tracking it.
Absentee voting, along with early voting, are options for people who are worried about their safety due to COVID-19 as well as other reasons. In Texas, some of her friends waited for over 4 hours at the polls to cast their vote.
“It’s crazy. It’s good on the one hand that students, particularly our generation, are super excited and want to vote. But they’re making it really difficult,” said Powell.
Getting the ballot is only half the battle. Once the voter receives their ballot, it is important that they follow the instructions carefully when filling it out. Failure to properly fill out the ballot can result in it being denied.
Back in the 2018 Senate Elections, Powell’s absentee ballot was rejected three times before it was finally accepted.
“It was for really benign reasons. My street name ends in Court and I wrote Ct, which is an abbreviation, and it got denied one time for that because that technically wasn’t my street name,” said Powell.
According to The Election Administration and Voting Survey in 2016, the number one reason for absentee ballots being rejected are mismatching signatures. Other reasons include ballots not being received by the deadline and people failing to sign their ballots.
Instructions on how to fill out the absentee ballot will be included in the envelope alongside the ballot. Clickondetroit.com gives details and tips on how to fill out the ballot. They warn to only use blue or black ink and make sure the ovals are completely filled in and darkened. Don’t forget to check both sides of the ballot and review it before putting it in the secrecy sleeve that it comes with and return it to your local clerk’s office.
Whether it’s in person or absentee voting, a ballot allows one’s voice to be heard during this upcoming election. Check the deadlines and registrations for your state and vote!
Renee Prvulov is a senior majoring in Professional Writing with a minor in creative writing for fiction. She is a consultant at the writing center and a publishing intern for the Cube. She hopes to attend a publishing institute after graduation, and find a job editing at a publishing company. To destress, she loves to read, write, and binge watch on Netflix.