On August 18th, 2020, bells chimed to honor the 100th centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage. The 19th Amendment played a big role in the history of voter turnout.
One hundred years later, in a presidential election year, spreading the word about the vote and making the process accessible is just as important.
Many college students are voting for the first time this year in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. Understandably, first-time voters may be confused about the voting process. Voting is commonly viewed as not only a civic responsibility but also a chance for people to express their approval of elected officials.
Jordan Lowrance, a sophomore majoring in Political Science, believes that APSU could change prospective voters’ attitudes by providing more classes on voter registration, or even by closing the campus on Election Day.
“Registering is probably the biggest barrier for people in voting, especially when people are trying to mail in an absentee vote,” Lowrance said.
The process of voting varies between states. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission provides information and guidance to voting state-by-state. In Tennessee, people can register to vote online through GoVoteTn.
In every state, it is important to register to vote ahead of time.
For example, in Tennessee, citizens must be registered to vote within thirty days before an election. However, in the event that errors are present on voter registration, this task should be completed earlier rather than later.
Once registered, voters can use the Voter Registration Information Lookup And Absentee By-Mail Ballot Status Tracker.
If an individual plans to vote in-person, they must find out the date and time that their polling location is operating.
In Tennessee, Election Day is set to be held on November 3rd, 2020.
Absentee ballots, or mail-in voting, provide an alternative to voting at the election poll sites. To obtain an absentee ballot, an individual must first find out if they can vote by mail in their state.
The National Association of Secretaries of State provides extensive information in each state regarding absentee ballot procedures.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) created a Tennessee Student Voting Guide to clarify voting requirements. According to the NASW, students voting in Tennessee who are voting with absentee ballots must have registered in person or voted in the past.
Students can only vote by mail if they are attending a school that is outside of their county. Students must mail their absentee ballots in so they are delivered by seven days prior to Election Day.
“When it comes to the health of any democracy, one of the most important pieces is the ability for the public to participate. Voting is one of the most fundamental and basic ways we do that,” Kevin Baron, a political science professor, said.
Baron also believes that while voting is a fundamental part of this democracy, our civic duty extends beyond that.
“[This is] why it’s important to move beyond just voting: to be in regular contact with your elected representatives; to hold them accountable for what it is they do that you disagree with; to offer a sense of praise to things you do agree with. That’s how a healthy democracy functions,” Baron said.
In order to better encourage students to participate in voting, Dr. Baron proposed that APSU should have a web page dedicated to voter information and non-partisan sources.
Abegayle Goldblatt, an academic advisor in the student success department, suggested that after social distancing concerns are cleared, APSU could host voter registration drives and utilize the Peay Pickup to help the community with rides to the polls.
Lowrance, Goldblatt, and Dr. Baron all agreed that local and primary elections were just as significant as the upcoming presidential election.
Making change at the local and state level is necessary for the passage to national progress, and as a campus, everyone has the task to make sure our campus community is represented. That requires research of candidates and assuring representation through a vote.
“Voting is the ability to have your voice heard,” Baron said.