Absentee voting trends upward, students send ballots home

By Charlotte Collins

While students live in Champaign or Urbana throughout the school year, some registered voters prefer to vote for candidates in their hometowns for the upcoming Nov. 4 midterm elections. 

The number of absentee voters in Champaign-Urbana has been trending upward in recent years, according to Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten.

“This year, so far, we’ve had 3,846 absentee ballots sent out,” Hulten said. “The numbers are progressively getting heavier.”

As of press time on Wednesday, 4,428 people voted early within Champaign County. Hulten said the county’s busiest locations are Brookens Administration Center in Urbana, which had 1,939 voters, Meadowbrook Community Church, 897 voters and the Illini Union, 430 voters. 

Halie Rando, graduate student in ACES, sent absentee ballots home to Massachusetts during her undergraduate years at the University, but has since decided to register to vote in Champaign County.

Rando explained that absentee voting makes the most sense for students  who still feel more attached to their home communities and want to remain involved in politics in their respective towns. She noted that becoming a longer-term resident is what made her decide to register locally.

“I’m from Massachusetts, and I love Massachusetts’ politics, but I figured, since I’m going to live here for six years, I should switch over to here,” Rando said. “I’m registered, and I’m planning to vote on the 4th.”

Rando said she even sent absentee votes to her hometown when she lived in England for a year. 

“If you’re a college student and you haven’t really assimilated to the community here, it’s a really good idea to stay involved in your community back home until you have somewhere else to get engaged in.”

Rori Westerlund, freshman in Education, said she wanted to start off on the right foot with her first year being eligible to vote. She sent her ballot home to Geneseo, in western Illinois.

“It was the first election that I was able to (vote), so I felt it was important to start with my first election day and make it a habit,” Westerlund said. “I also just felt that it didn’t matter whether I was living two and a half hours away or not. My parents influenced me, but I felt like I did it independently; I did it on my own and mailed it myself.”

Westerlund said she doesn’t think many students are aware of the opportunity of absentee voting, and believes others would be more likely to participate in the election if they knew of the option.

“I think it should be stressed. I hadn’t even heard of the process, and didn’t really think I would be able to vote being outside my town,” Westerlund said. “It’s a great way to still be involved in your community while being at college.”

All absentee voter ballots must be postmarked by today. 

However, many students won’t send votes home or cast ballots locally.

Alison Ganko, a senior in ACES, feels she doesn’t know enough about the upcoming elections to cast a vote, but she may vote in the future.

“I usually don’t vote, but I’m planning on voting once I’m more informed,” Ganko said. “I just don’t read up on issues, and I don’t want to make an uninformed vote.”

Charlotte can be reached at [email protected]