With Election Day fast approaching, understanding how to register and vote as college students is becoming increasingly more important.
In Boulder County, election staff are working tirelessly to ensure students have all the necessary information to properly participate in the 2020 county and presidential elections.
“We’ve been working really hard to ensure that students have access,” said Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick of the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder’s Office. Fitzpatrick was able to answer some of the most pressing questions about voting as a college student.
As many students that attend CU are out-of-state students or simply live away from home, voting may look a little different than it would if they were completing their ballot from their normal place of residence.
“Students have options,” Fitzpatrick ensures, mentioning the various voting methods for students.
There are three main situations that many students are presented with, that all have simple solutions in regards to completing their registration properly. Students from Colorado that reside on campus may continue to register to vote using their home address. This means that the ballot will automatically be mailed directly to their house.
If a student is from a different state, or is from Colorado but prefers to receive their ballot at their school address, they can register at that address.
Finally, students from out of state can also register using their home address and request an absentee ballot if their state allows absentee voting. In each case, it is important that students remember to verify their registration to make certain they can vote properly and on time.
With Election Day arriving in a small duration of time, the question of when students can register arises.
“There is no voter registration deadline in Colorado,” Fitzpatrick said. “People can register to vote up to and including Election Day.”
In Colorado, ballots are mailed automatically to active voters, but that does not mean that if a person is not currently registered they cannot receive a ballot for this election. If a student registers to vote online prior to Monday Oct. 26, the ballot will still be sent to them. After this point, there is still a method of voting that is available for all eligible voters.
“A vote center is a one-stop-shop where they (the voters) can have any voting needs addressed,” Fitzpatrick said.
Resources that are available at a voting center includes registering to vote at any point before Election Day (even after Oct. 26), updating voter registration, getting a replacement ballot, and voting. Voting centers begin opening on Monday Oct. 19, and will continue to stay open until Election Day. Two voting centers will be accessible on campus and can be found in Williams Village and on the second floor of the University Memorial Center (UMC).
Once a voter has received their ballot, it is important for them to understand the information they will actually be voting on.
“Definitely do your research,” said Fitzpatrick. She also mentioned that not understanding something on the ballot should not stop anyone from voting.
“Some people think that voting is like taking a test and if you don’t have all the answers to that test then you may not participate, and that is just something that we don’t want to see.”
In short, if there are only a few things that someone wants to vote on, that’s their choice. Other ways that you can learn about information on the ballot are using the sample ballot (found online) to be prepared, researching online, using a blue book, and also talking to friends and family members.
“It’s not the end of the world if someone makes a mistake,” said Fitzpatrick, reassuring voters who are concerned about filling out ballots correctly.
If someone makes a mistake on their ballot, two things that they can do are to request a replacement ballot, and follow the voter instructions in their ballot how to correct the mistake they made. A team of bipartisan election judges are present when counting ballots to determine voter intent in the case that a mistake has been made and corrected.
TURNING IN YOUR BALLOT
When ballots are complete, the next step is to turn them in.
“24-hour ballot drop boxes are our preferred method of return,” stated Fitzpatrick. Ballot drop boxes are monitored 24-hours a day by surveillance and are bolted to the ground to ensure safe and reliable voting. The ballots are then collected by bipartisan teams of election judges. Keep in mind that all ballots must be in by 7 p.m. on election night in order to be counted.
24-hour drop boxes can be found outside of the UMC and also at Williams Village. Note that even if you are registered in a different county in Colorado, you may still submit your ballot at any drop box in Colorado. Confer with your home state if you are completing an absentee ballot on how to properly submit them.
It may seem like a lot of steps to successfully vote in the election this year, but they are all important steps to take. “It’s critically important that everyone feels invited to participate in the election,” Fitzpatrick said. “We want them to vote, we want them to participate.”
More information about voting can be found here.