Flames of the Torch

With Election Day looming ever closer, the time for choosing sides is drawing to a close, while the time for counting ballots is near at hand.

Hopefully, on Nov. 4 students across the nation will return to their home polling places to enter their votes.

But what about the many students who go away to college and are unable to return home? There’s no need to be alarmed; the absentee ballot system was established just for this issue.

For those absentee voters who have already sent in their ballots, congratulations. For those who do not plan to fill one out because they think it is too complicated or just not worth the trouble, that is a bit disappointing.

Finally, for anyone who still plans to complete an absentee ballot as of now, be prepared for some bad news: you missed the deadline.

In a recent poll taken by the Torch about whether students are voting in the upcoming election, there were a few students who responded that they would be voting by absentee ballot, though they were unsure how to do it or even if there was still time to get it done before the deadline.
Why is this?

The problem with the youth vote in the last few elections has been motivating them to get out and vote. Organizations like Rock the Vote strive to get information to the youth about voting, particularly about why their votes will count.

At St. John’s, there has been a more than admirable effort to energize students through Participate in ’08. This program, formed as a coalition of faculty, administrators, College Republicans and Democrats, and Student Government, has tried to inform students about the upcoming election through ads on campus and links to information on the St. John’s Central Web site.

Among the information provided by Participate in ’08 are the deadlines for applying for and sending in absentee ballots for each state.

Yet, there are still students who have missed out.

Brian Brown, assistant vice president of Government Relations who plays an instrumental part in Participate in ’08, pointed out two reasons for this problem.

First, it is difficult to get information out about absentee voting on a large scale because each state has its own absentee voting policy.

While this might be a major flaw in the absentee voting system in this country, it is not quite as problematic as the second reason Brown pointed out: a lack of interest in voting among students.

Students that go away to college or are simply unable to go home for Election Day must take it upon themselves to register for an absentee ballot, and part of this is to become knowledgeable about the absentee ballot system of the state they are from.
At the same time, there should also be more ad campaigns on a national or at least state level aimed specifically at raising awareness about absentee voting.

These ads should include general information that many students do not realize until it is too late. This includes making it clear that absentee voters must apply for their ballot about a month before the election, in order for the ballot to be mailed to the voter, filled out, and then sent back to the state.

With a generation of young voters who register to vote and then simply do not go to a polling place because it is too much trouble or they forget, perhaps an increase in absentee voting, where the ballot will actually come to you, can be the solution to voter apathy.

With so many college students living away from home, absentee ballots can be an important way of increasing the youth vote. In this case, a little information could go a long way.