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Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Voting Absentee

Voting can be a tedious process, but it is also a relatively quick one. Coming out of the Iowa Caucuses, where the difference was decided by 6 coin tosses on the Democratic side, it’s hard to say that it does not matter. For all the people who don’t have the right to vote here and for those who would risk their lives to live in a democracy, please do your research and vote. Look honestly at the candidates and their records, and pick the one that best represents your values. Episode 5 of Game of Thrones will still be there for you when you get back. Here are five questions that should help you figure out how to vote absentee:

  1. Is my state holding a primary or a caucus?

If it’s a caucus, you need to be there in person in almost all cases. Check your caucus, but it’s most likely that you can’t participate and you’re better off registering in NY. Caucuses (to summarize a mind-numbingly tedious and complex process) involve filing to different sides of the room and convincing everyone who’s undecided to join one side or the other. Counting votes is usually done by counting hands raised, so delegate counts are rough representations of the popular vote at best. Your voice matters more in a caucus if you’re loud and persuasive, but you need to be home to participate. Some states have tele-caucuses for soldiers abroad and expats, but they usually exclude all students attending college out of state, as Iowa did.

 

Map of states and primary format

Map of states and primary format

  1. In order to vote, when do I have to be registered? Do I have to join a political party?

VoteForBernie.org has a complete list of the various deadlines for registration and what parties are allowed to participate in each election/caucus. Pay attention to party-change deadlines (when you affiliate by). You may have voted without registering for a party in the past, as they are often before the registration deadline for first time voters. You can check your voter registration status here.

  1. Is it better to vote in my home state or register in NYC?

If you have voted before as an Independent, Green, or Republican, then this question is N/A because NY has an archaic rule that forces you to change parties in October. First time voters, however, can still register until March. If you’d like a postmarked like a voter registration form, just email columbia4bernie@gmail.com. We won’t ask you who you’re voting for, and we will give forms to anyone.

The logic behind registering in NY is that earlier primaries matter more. If your primary is before April 19th (check at VoteForBernie.org if you don’t know), and you can comfortably register and send in your ballot there, vote there. If it’s after, it may be more beneficial to register at your college address. You should also register in NY if you’ve already missed your primary or otherwise can’t vote in it.

  1. How do I request an absentee ballot and when do I need to request it?

Order your absentee ballot and Long Distance Voter.org now please. It will take you 5 minutes. The general rule for when to apply for/request one is a month before your primary, but some states deliver the ballots much faster than others. Check request deadlines here.

  1. When do I need to send in my absentee ballot?

Send it in within two weeks of your election if you can, as most states count when the ballot is received, not when it is sent, but check here to see your state. Happy voting.

This post was submitted by Columbia and Barnard for Bernie. To respond to this piece or submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

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