Absentee ballots only option for some voters

By Natalie Carino

With Election Day almost a month away, campaigns are heating up and voters are weighing in on which candidate to vote for. However, many students are not registered to vote in Champaign County and absentee ballots are their only option.

“Students are in an unusual position because they often move for the summers, and thus do not have long-term campus addresses,” said Brian Gaines, professor in the department of Political Science and at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. “That makes registering at their parents’ address sensible, but also inconvenient if the family home is far away.”

By law, a voter must have a reason to why they cannot make it to their registered polling place in order to vote by absentee ballot. These reasons range from observing a religious holiday to being a college student who is temporarily away from home.

To obtain an absentee ballot, a voter may request it by calling or visiting their county clerk’s office. In some counties, the application can be downloaded and printed offline. Voters must then complete and mail in the application to the clerk’s office.

If the application is properly completed, an election authority will mail out an absentee application by mail, which must be completed and mailed back in. The last day to receive an absentee application by mail and the last day a county clerk’s office can mail out ballots is Nov. 2.

“Voters need to mail in ballots right away,” said Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden.

First time voters, however, cannot vote absentee by mail if they registered to vote by mail. Illinois law states that a voter must either register in person or vote in person in order to verify identification and prevent voter fraud.

“Absentee ballots are not exactly hard to get,” said Katie Dawson, junior in LAS. “I think people get frustrated, though, with the rules and regulations so it might deter them from voting.”

Shelden said that he finds it is about a 50-50 split between absentee voters and those who vote in Champaign. He said that since absentee voting is a bit complicated, students do decide to vote in Champaign.

Dawson said registering in Champaign is always another option.

“Since we live here most of the time, the decisions made here affect us,” Dawson said.