Election Day, the Whittier way

Election Day, the Whittier way

Poets get ready to cast their vote in the upcoming Midterm Elections.

Ky Watnick


For many college students, the Nov. 6 election will be the first important election they can take part in. One of the most important parts of our democracy is the right to vote, yet only 46 percent of citizens ages 18 – 35 voted in the 2016 presidential election as compared to 72 percent of those over the age of 71, according to NPR. Valerie Strauss wrote in her article for The Washington Post that “[The youth] have not learned how to register to vote . . . They haven’t learned that they have power . . . This lack of education translates into a lack of political engagement.” In order to change this, the youth — college students in particular — need to understand how and where to vote. 

In-state students should have registered in person, via mail, or online by Oct. 22, this past Monday, in order to vote in the Nov. 6 elections. Next, they must make the choice to vote in person or by mail. For in-person voting, students will have to go to their assigned polling place, which is based on their permanent address. It is important to find the right polling place because, while you can vote at any polling place, you must vote provisionally if you are not at your assigned place. All this information can be easily found by searching online on such sites lavote.net/locator or sos.ca.gov/elections/polling-place/. If you were using Whittier College as your home address, your polling place would be the Whittier Community Center, classroom five, at 7630 Washington Avenue, Whittier, CA 90602. These sites will also give you information on the times when voting opens and closes on the day of the election as well. If you decide to Vote by Mail, ballots can be dropped off at your assigned polling place as well.

Both students who are California residents and those who are from out of state can opt to mail in their votes. Students must meet the deadline for registering as a mail-in voter first. For California, this means sending in your Permanent Absentee Voter application by Oct. 30 or by registering as a permanent Vote by Mail voter. For other states, this information can be found at ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/all-mail-elections.aspx, but keep in mind that only 22 states permit any type of Vote by Mail. Vote by Mail is different from absentee ballots, which are defined by Merriam-Webster as “a ballot submitted (as by mail) in advance of an election by a voter who is unable to be present at the polls.” Therefore, absentee ballots are much more likely to be used by students from other states. The deadlines for registering for absentee ballots can be found on vote.org/absentee-ballot-deadlines/ and range anywhere from 11 days prior to the election for both in person and mail-in registration for Arizona and Texas, to one day prior to the election for both in person and mail-in registration for South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. For California, as long as the ballot is received within three days of the election and postmarked Nov. 6, so you can mail your vote in on the day of the election.

Provisional ballots “provide a fail-safe mechanism for voters who arrive at the polls on Election Day and whose eligibility to vote is uncertain,” according to the National Conference of State Legislators’ website. They are guaranteed ballots for anyone who shows up to vote whose voter status cannot be confirmed or denied, which may occur if you go to the wrong polling place, if there is some error in the listing at the polling place, if you are a Vote by Mail voter who decides to go in person, or if a valid form of identification cannot be produced. These should be used as a last-case scenario, as the provisional ballots will usually only be considered after the election, and a board will decide whether the person who voted was actually able to vote or not. Only if it is decided that the person could vote will the vote be counted. Therefore, there are numbers that are issued and rejected at each election, so there is no real guarantee that your vote will be counted. So, if at all possible, avoid provisional ballots, but be sure to keep them in mind if you encounter trouble come Election Day. 

Remember your rights, Poets: if you are older than 18, you can vote; if you are unable to verify your ability to vote at the polls you are guaranteed a provisional ballot; and you may not be discriminated against at the polls. If anything goes wrong, you can call the Election Protection Hotline at (866) 687-8683. Go out, and vote!