Absentee voting creates alternative

By Katie Heinz

With Election Day less than two months away, some students are thinking not only about which candidates to vote for, but how and where to cast a ballot.

Students who are not registered to vote in Champaign County have the opportunity to cast an absentee ballot for their home county prior to Nov. 2. Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden said that although it is difficult to estimate the number of students who vote by absentee ballot, he has heard that a lot of students choose this option.

The first day to request an application for an absentee ballot in the state of Illinois is Sept. 23. Once a student has requested an application – by contacting the county clerk where they plan to vote – they must fill out basic information and either mail or deliver the application in person to the clerk’s office. Assuming the application is filled out correctly, an absentee ballot is then mailed to the student.

It is mandatory to vote the ballot in secret, which can be done at any time prior to the week before the election. The student must then send the ballot to the clerk’s office to be counted at a later date.

The application for an absentee ballot must be submitted at least five days prior to the election if sent by mail. But the application can be delivered in person up to one day before Nov. 2.

Tom Leach, public information officer at the Illinois State Board of Elections, said everyone who applies usually gets to vote absentee.

In addition to registered voters who expect to be absent from their county of residence on Election Day, registered voters appointed to be election judges in a precinct other than the one where they reside are also able to vote by absentee ballot. The option is also available to registered voters unable to be present at the polls because of a physical incapacity or those observing a religious holiday. Several other reasons to vote absentee also apply.

Shelden said the clerk’s office plans to send out a voter guide to every household in Champaign in order to educate students and other residents about the upcoming election and voting procedures.

Ramona Oswald, associate professor of family studies, said she passed out voter registration cards and information about absentee ballots to her sociology class, which she said is focused on politics, policy and “understanding all the different things people have done in social movements and the positive impact that they have had in the world.”

“It was a way of making the curriculum real,” Oswald said. “Students need to be involved.”