Voting 101: It’s Easy, Fast, and Important
Deadline for registering to vote is in two weeks
Despite the efforts of both President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to reach young voters, a Gallup poll published in July found that only 58 percent of young people (18-29 years old) plan to cast a ballot in November’s election. They give a variety of reasons for deciding to sit out the election, including frustration over the poor economy and disappointment with the president’s first term.
Just four years ago, the youth vote proved crucial in catapulting Barack Obama to the White House. Obama captured 66 percent of the 18-to-29-year-old vote, defeating U.S. Senator John McCain by a more than two to one margin. The 2008 election saw the second highest youth voter turnout ever (the highest, 55 percent, was in 1972, the first year 18-year-olds were allowed to vote in a presidential election). With the race for the White House still in a dead heat, the youth vote could again decide the next president.
The deadline to register to vote is fast approaching, warns Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), dean of students, who notes, “Voting is our simple service to society. Voting is democracy’s bold move. Even better, it is available to almost every citizen.”
Are you registered to vote? Thinking about changing your voter registration to Massachusetts? Unsure of how to go about obtaining an absentee ballot? BU Today has put together a guide to help answer your questions.
Who can vote?
American citizens who are 18 years old on or before Election Day, Tuesday, November 6.
When is the deadline to register to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in Massachusetts is Wednesday, October 17. This means that your registration form must be postmarked October 17 at the latest or it will not be valid for this year’s November election.
The deadline for registering in other states varies. Find a list here and select your state from the map.
How can I register to vote?
Whether you’re planning to register in Massachusetts or in your home state, details about how to complete the process are here.
If you are a resident of Massachusetts:
- By mail: Download and print a national voter registration form by clicking on the “National Mail Voter Registration Form” link on this page, or call 617-727-2828 or 1-800-462-VOTE to have one mailed to you. Mail the completed form to:
- In person: Go to any registration location, such as your town or city hall, and complete an affidavit of registration. You will be asked for information such as your name, residence, and date of birth. (Remember that Allston and Brighton are neighborhoods of Boston.)Boston Election Department
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
Brookline Town Hall
333 Washington St.
Brookline, MA 02445
Cambridge City Hall
51 Inman St., First Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139
- At the Registry of Motor Vehicles: You can register when applying for or renewing your driver’s license.
Boston Election Department
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
If you are from another state and want to vote there, see the question below about voting by absentee ballot.
Where do I vote?
If you are registered to vote in Massachusetts, type in your address on this page to find out where you can vote.
What is an absentee ballot, and how do I use one to vote?
Whether you’re a college student registered in another state, are from Massachusetts but can’t get home to vote on Election Day, plan to be traveling and can’t get to the polls that day, are disabled, or are a member of the military, there’s no reason not to vote. As long as you’re already a registered voter, you can obtain an absentee ballot. Here’s how:
First, download and print the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s National Mail Voter Registration form for information on applying for an absentee ballot. Fill out the necessary information and return it to the board of elections. This works for most states.
Be aware that your application needs to be processed before your ballot is sent to you, so check the deadlines for absentee ballot applications on your state’s website and allow for adequate time.
Once you receive your absentee ballot in the mail, read the instructions carefully—they typically require using a black or blue pen.
Mail or hand-deliver the absentee ballot to your hometown elections office. Many states require that your ballot be postmarked before the polls close on Election Day. Others allow you a window of time after the polls close to send your ballot back.
In some states, you can apply for an absentee ballot and cast your vote at the same time, if you are able to visit your state two or three weeks before the election.
Most states have websites with detailed information about registering, casting an absentee ballot, and voting in person. The Dean of Students Office also has a helpful website with more information. Use them.
This is an update of a story published September 29, 2008.13 Comments