When, where and how to vote this November

By Gwyn Skiles, Contributing Writer

Many students will vote for the first time this upcoming November. For those on campus, the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with distance from their voting jurisdiction presents challenges when voting. Below is a list of different ways students may vote including registration, deadlines and location information.

How to register

In order to vote, students must register with the United States government. Each state has a different registration process and different registration requirements. To register in Illinois, students must be a citizen of the United States, turn 18 before or on the General or Consolidated Election and live in their election precinct at least 30 days before Election Day. Students may not be currently serving a confinement sentence as a result of a conviction or claim the right to vote anywhere else.

There are several ways to register, the most popular being online. By going to illinois.turbovote.org and submitting an applicable permanent or school address, students are taken to their state’s registration application.

From there, students must answer a series of questions regarding citizenship status, age verification, personal information and mailing/contact information. Students need a valid Driver’s License/State ID to fulfill their identification requirement. Students may also change their registration address, their registered name or both by filling out the same form. Students in Illinois must register by Oct. 18 to vote by General Election Day, Nov. 3. 

Students may also register to vote by mail or in-person by going to vote.gov. In Illinois, mail-in/absentee ballot registration requests must be received by Oct. 6. In-person registration is due Nov. 3. These deadlines vary by state. Regardless, registering as early as possible is the best way to ensure students will be able to vote in the upcoming General Election.

For more information on how to register, students may reference the Student Success & Engagement, civic engagement webpage.

Go to the polls

For those on-campus and registered with an address in Champaign-Urbana, students may elect to vote in person. Students have the option to vote on Election Day, Nov. 3, or early. Early voting started Sept. 24 and continues through Nov. 2. The advantages of early voting include less crowded polling centers and more time for their vote to be counted. Polling centers on-campus include the ARC and the Illini Union. At University polling sites, masks are required. More locations in Champaign County can be found at champaigncountyclerk.com. Students may also travel to polling places within their registered county to vote in person. Students do not have to worry about class conflicts, as the University Senate announced an official holiday on Nov. 3.

When voting in-person, election judges will ask voters for their name and date of birth. Voters will sign a signature pad to verify their identity. Election judges will ask voters for their political party and give them the according ballot. Demonstrations for filling out the ballot will be outlined by election judges. Once the voter completes their ballot, they should double check to make sure it’s completed correctly and to their satisfaction. If a voter makes a mistake, Election Judges will issue a new ballot and cancel the incorrect one.

When complete, the voter will place their ballot in a privacy cover and insert it into a tabulator machine. The tabulator will notify voters if their ballot is filled incorrectly. Voters aren’t obligated to change their ballot if the tabulator identifies mistakes. On the way out, voters are given an “I Voted” sticker.

Mail-In/Absentee Ballot

For students that registered with an address outside of Champaign County, mail-in ballots are an option. Advantages include less exposure to COVID-19 at polling places and no need to travel. This option is common for students who are unable to get to their registered voting jurisdiction within the early voting and regular voting time frame. Mail-in/absentee ballots prove especially helpful for out-of-state students.

To vote by mail, students must apply. The process to request a mail-in ballot is similar to the registration process. Eligibility varies by state. Students can request a mail-in ballot application at vote.org. Deadlines to submit mail-in ballot requests vary by state. Students should apply as soon as possible to ensure their ballot will be counted by the voting deadline, Nov. 3. In Illinois, students must submit their absentee ballot request by Oct. 29. When students receive their ballot, they must fill it in and return it no later than Nov. 3. Absentee ballot instructions can be found at vote.gov.

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