Although the leaves have just started to turn, the Nov. 6 midterm election is right around the corner.
It’s not a presidential election year, but seats for Congress and state-level offices also have a substantial impact on people's lives.
The American people have the power to choose who will decide tax and healthcare policy, as well as provide influence on Supreme Court nominations. Local officials make many of the same decisions about enacting laws and regulations that apply on a state or county-wide level.
“Your choice to vote affects whether legislators prioritize your interests,” said Robert Schub, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Evidence consistently shows that if new groups become highly relevant, elected officials change their legislative priorities and behavior.”
Americans around 20 years old are an emerging group with the power to change legislative priorities and behavior, Schub said. However, voter turnout among America’s youth is low. According to Schub, only about 20 percent of eligible 20-year-olds voted in the last four midterm elections. In contrast, 65 percent of 75-year-olds voted in those elections, and 75-year-olds aren’t basing their votes on issues affecting young people like student loans and tuition rates.
Voting as a student is a little more complicated than just going to the polls, so here’s a guide to help one exercise their civic duty and advocate for the issues they care about.
Students should register as soon as possible. In most states, the deadline for registering online is 30 days before the election. Registering in person and by mail are also options. Students can check their state’s deadlines here.
In Nebraska, the deadline for online registration is Friday, Oct. 19, 18 days before Election Day.
Nebraska residents can register with the election office in their home county, even if it’s a different county from where they attend college. Registering online is also an option, so long as students have a driver’s license.
Out-of-state students don’t have to register to vote in Nebraska. If they don’t plan to stay in Nebraska long-term, students should check their registration and get registered with their home state. That can be done through vote.org or any state’s secretary of state’s website.
How to vote
One can’t just go anywhere to vote. Each voter is assigned a polling place where their name is on the roster. Locations can be found here. Precincts are based on one’s home address.
If it’s impossible to make it home to vote in person, students can request an absentee ballot and send it to their home county’s election officials. To get an absentee ballot, students should fill out a request form online.
All one has to do is print it, fill it out and mail it to his or her county election official. Online resources like vote.org can help find the right address. The ballot will arrive in the mail and must be mailed back before Election Day.
Envelopes and stamps are available in the Nebraska Union bookstore or any post office.
The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot in Nebraska is Oct. 26, 11 days before the election. Ballots are due to election officials before the polls close on Election Day. Out-of-state students can check their state’s deadlines here.
Schub said students have a strong incentive to vote, and voter mobilization efforts have been shown to be very effective.
“Evidence indicates that voting is habit-forming,” Schub said. “Those who vote this year are more likely to vote in the future. Those who stay home this November are more likely to remain unheard in the future.”