Story by Ashley Coker / Contributing Writer | Photo courtesy of Flickr
Voters across the United States are preparing to elect a new president, and every candidate is rallying for the youth vote.
Millennials have caught up to baby boomers as the largest generation of eligible voters, according to a Pew Research Center study released in March. The difference is that baby boomers are much more likely to make it to the polls than millennials.
Historically, young adults between the ages of 18-24 are the least likely to vote in any election. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, in the 2012 presidential election, 38 percent of young adults voted. This is compared to 49.5 percent of 25-44 year olds, 63.4 percent of 45-64 year olds and 69.7 percent of citizens ages 65 and older.
It doesn’t matter if young voters are #WithHer, don a “Make America Great Again” cap or stand behind any of a number of third party candidates if they do not cast their votes.
Voting in college can be confusing, but there are a number of ways for MTSU students to make sure their voices are heard in November, starting with this guide to participating in the democratic process.
A crucial part of voting is actually getting registered. To register to vote in Tennessee, applicants must be U.S. citizens, Tennessee residents and 18 or older by Election Day. Convicted felons may only register if their voting rights have been restored by the court.
Full-time MTSU students who are legal residents of Tennessee may choose to register in Rutherford County or the county where their parents live. Applicants must complete a voter registration form and return it to their county election commission in person or by mail before Oct. 11 to be eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election. The election commission will send approved applicants an official voter registration card within two weeks.
Students may also register to vote on campus through the Oct. 11 deadline at any of the following locations:
American Democracy Project
Harrison House Rm. 108, 1416 East Main Street
Basement of Todd Hall
Albert Gore Research Center
Coordinator Office Room 226
Learning Resource Center
West Lobby Room 101 -2
Head to the polls
Students who are registered to vote in Rutherford County may vote in their assigned precinct on Nov. 8 or choose to participate in early voting at the Rutherford County Election Commission or one of seven satellite locations between Oct. 19 and Nov. 3. Any registered voter can participate in early voting, and no excuse in required.
Voters should arrive at the polls ready to show a valid, government-issued photo ID. Acceptable forms of identification include a Tennessee driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a Tennessee handgun carry permit, a U.S. military ID or a state or federal photo ID. Student IDs are not accepted.
Students who are registered in another Tennessee county may travel to that county on Election Day or during the early voting period to vote in person, or in some cases, they may request an absentee ballot.
Certain Tennessee residents are permitted to vote by mail-in absentee ballot. This includes full-time students (or the spouses of full-time students) who attend school in the state of Tennessee but outside the county where they are registered to vote. However, these students must have either registered to vote at their county election commission in-person or voted in-person in their county at least once before.
In-state students interested in absentee voting should fill out a request for a ballot and deliver it to their county election commission by Nov. 1. Requests for by-mail ballots must be received by the election commission, not postmarked, by this date. Ballots must be mailed back by Nov. 8.
Students who came to MTSU from outside the state of Tennessee can choose to become legal residents of the state, which includes obtaining a Tennessee driver’s license and then registering to vote in Tennessee. They may also choose to maintain their voter registration in their home state.
Students who remain registered in a state other than Tennessee should contact their county election commission about voting requirements, since these laws vary by state. In most cases, voters will need to travel back to the state they are registered in to cast their ballots.
The MTSU Center for Historic Preservation sponsors the American Democracy Project which exists to provide students with information and assistance related to civic engagement, including voting. Students with questions about registering to vote or the process of voting can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit them at Harrison House Room 108.