With all the time spent between classes, work and extracurricular activities, staying active in politics can fall to the wayside. Simply put, college students are busy, and this is where vote-by-mail ballots come in.
Absentee voting works to simplify what can sometimes be a difficult and daunting process for voters. The number of people voting by mail has been steadily growing since the late 1970s, with 46 percent of voters in San Luis Obispo County registered absentee in 2006.
“It’s basically just more convenient,” Julie Rodewald, the San Luis Obispo County clerk-recorder. “When faced with really long ballots, it’s nice to fill them out at your leisure in your home. With weather like we’ve been having, a lot of people don’t want to drive out in the rain to vote.”
But for the college community, there is an added bonus.
“Students who want to vote but don’t want to drive back to their home counties find it convenient because they can fill out their ballot wherever they are,” she said. “In fact, it’s really the only other way to do it.”
To use the vote-by-mail system, one must be a registered voter and fill out a vote-by-mail application to be received by the county in which they are registered by no more than seven days before an election. For the upcoming presidential primaries that day has passed, but ballots can still be issued in person up to the time of the election.
While students can reregister in San Luis Obispo County, many opt to vote absentee from their home counties.
“I registered to vote by mail when I moved to college because it’s easy,” biological sciences sophomore Benjamin Kwittken said. “A lot of Americans have school or work and they don’t have time to go vote.”
Other voters, like forestry and natural resources junior Corinne Ross, are simply looking to avoid a long trip home.
“I don’t want to have to drive all that way on election day, so I’ll probably go get a ballot in person before that if I can remember,” she said. “I guess you could call me a borderline absentee voter.”
With the trend steadily increasing from less than 10,000 voters in 1980 to approximately 60,000 currently utilizing the system in San Luis Obispo, it is likely that the number of people using this approach will rise beyond 50 percent in the coming years.
Even students not registered to vote find the mail-in process a convenient choice and maybe even a reason to become involved. Electrical engineering sophomore Jeffrey Ing hasn’t registered yet but thinks the process is worthwhile.
“It would take less than a minute and you could just throw it in your mailbox when you’re done with it,” he said. “I think it’s a really good idea for students.”
Applications to vote by mail can be found on the back of the sample ballot booklet voters received prior to elections, on a county’s elections Web site, or through a written request sent to the address where the ballot should be mailed.
For this year’s presidential primary election, completed absentee ballots must be received by the election department or any polling place by 8 p.m. Feb. 5.
Absentee ballots that are dropped off by hand must be turned in to polling places within the county to which they are registered.