Distance from home may discourage student voters

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By Abbie Lennox
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Many college students will refrain from casting their vote in the 2012 presidential election because of their distance from home on Election Day.

Like many of her peers, Meredith Andrie, a senior packaging major at Michigan State University, lives far from her hometown, deterring her from voting in the 2012 election.

“If I was able to be at home for Election Day, I would definitely be voting in the election,” said Andrie.  “Being a busy student and being away from home on Election Day really was the deciding factor for me, that I would not vote.”

Carolyn Muir, a junior interdisciplinary studies major at Michigan State University who will also be away from home on Election Day, has not let the absentee ballot process discourage her.

“I registered for my absentee ballot because this is the first year I am able to vote in a presidential election, so I really wanted to participate and have my voice heard,” said Muir.

“The registration process was really easy, and all I have to do is fill it out and send it back before Election Day,” said Muir.  “The couple of minutes that it took me to do some online research, receive my ballot, fill it out, and send it back, will be worth it for me to be able to say I voted in the 2012 presidential election.”

Unlike Muir, Andrie was completely unaware of how to obtain an absentee ballot.

“I don’t even have time to eat breakfast in the morning because of school or work, let alone search the Internet on how to register and vote using an absentee ballot,” said Andrie.  “I registered to vote in my hometown, Muskegon, which I thought was the only step I needed to make me eligible to vote.”

Andrie added that many of her peers would not participate in the 2012 presidential election because of the absentee process.

“Most of my friends don’t have time to travel home to vote, so they are planning on not voting at all,” said Andrie.  “I know young people are supposed to be the voice of the future, but the absentee process is just too time-consuming for us busy college students.”

Although students living away from their home districts may believe that their absentee votes won’t make a difference, if past elections are any indication, absentee votes could play a critical role in the upcoming election.

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s 2010 Election Administration and Voting Survey Report, of the nearly 90 million people who voted nationwide in the 2010 midterm election, 16 percent, or about 15 million people, voted using a domestic absentee ballot.

The survey also reported that out of the 23 million ballots that were transmitted to voters, 76 percent of those ballots were returned, which accounts for about 18 million votes.

According to the U.S. Election Project, 25 percent of Michigan’s total population voted using absentee ballots

“Every vote makes a difference,” said Muir.  “I am so glad I decided to apply for an absentee ballot, unlike most of my friends, because now I am the only one who can say that I had a voice in choosing the government that will be making decisions for our futures. The process was easy and it gave me the chance to vote, even if I can’t be at home on Election Day.”

Voter registration forms must be postmarked by Oct. 9, and applications for absentee ballots must be received by 2 p.m. on Nov. 3.  For information, visit http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1633-21037–,00.html

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