Get Out Their Vote: How to Register to Vote in the 2017 Elections

By Emily Garrett

On September 26th, hundreds of events were planned across the nation to register eligible voters for National Voter Registration Day. Many events were planned specifically to register the large population of college students across the country and engage them in the voting process. Since only a handful of states register eligible voters at the age of eighteen through automatic voter registration, it’s incredibly important to stay informed about how to register, especially considering that the process varies state by state and can be quite confusing.

There are local elections that are taking place in at least 29 states within the U.S. in 2017. Some of these states, like Virginia and New Jersey, are holding gubernatorial and state elections in less than six weeks. Click here to see if there is a 2017 election that is taking place within your state! To help make things simpler, here are also some tips for college students going through the voter registration process. Your vote matters!

Should college students register to vote at home or where they attend school?

If you go to school outside of your hometown, you get to choose where you would like to place your vote. Students can choose to either register in their hometown or on their campus, as long as they are not registered to vote in two different states. Since student voters can often face difficulty when trying to register to vote where they attend school, the Election Protection Coalition exists to provide resources and support to defend the rights of all voters.

When choosing where to register, many college students consider registering in the state that allows their vote to be most impactful. For example, if a student attends school in a swing state they may choose to register in that state instead of their home state in order to aid in the success of a candidate with feminist ideals.

Keep in mind:

  1. If you register to vote in your home state, you’ll need to remember to fill out an absentee ballot. An Absentee Ballot Tool provided by aids in the process of requesting your absentee ballot.
  2. Students who are on scholarships or receive tuition reduction that requires residency within a certain state should check in with the financial aid office at their college or university before registering to vote at home. For example, if you receive a scholarship that requires California residency, you’ll need to ensure that registering to vote in a different state will not affect your status as a California resident.

Do I need to re-register to vote for every election?

You do not need to re-register to vote if you plan to continue voting in the same state and still live at the address listed on your voter registration. Updating your registration is only necessary if you have moved addresses, changed your name, changed political parties and want that information updated, or if you haven’t voted in the past four years.

College students might need to re-register to vote if they choose to vote in the state of their college/university. If you decide to move after college, you will have to re-register at your new address, whether that address is in the same state or not. Additionally, students should also update their registration for every new address (whether a dorm, apartment, house, etc.) they live in during their time in college.

Can I register to vote online?

More than half of states offer online voter registration; however, in order to register online you must have an in-state driver’s license. You can check online to see whether or not your state provides this form of voter registration.

Are there organizations that help college students vote?

The Campus Vote Project is one of the most prominent college voter outreach groups in the country. Recently, they launched an initiative to establish voter-friendly campuses for over 90 institutions, and are working to increase voter registration, mobilization, education, and easy accessibility to voting on campuses nationwide. There are approximately 17.3 million undergraduate students in the United States, yet this demographic consistently has a low turnout rate at elections, which is why groups like the Campus Vote Project are trying to increase voter turnout and harness the power of college students on Election Day.

For more information about voting and voter registration, check out these great resources:

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