First-time voters prepare for the presidential election

Many students are preparing to vote in their first election this year. Photo courtesy of times.com. 

STASIA RAEBEL | STAFF REPORTER | smraebel@butler.edu

Election Day is less than four weeks away, and Americans will soon head to the polls to cast their votes. To prepare for this nationwide event, Butler students are registering to vote, requesting absentee ballots and doing research on candidates. For most students, this will be their first presidential election — and for many first-year students, this will be the first election they can vote in.

Raleigh Brown, a first-year human communication and organizational leadership major from Kokomo, Indiana, said she is passionate about voting. In Indiana, citizens are eligible to register to vote before they turn 18 as long as they will be 18 by the time of the next election. This was exactly the case for Brown, and she registered online to vote when she was 17. She decided to vote via mail in the primary election after she turned 18.

In addition to voting, Brown has been taking advantage of opportunities to get involved beyond casting her ballot. During Indiana’s primary election, Brown worked as a poll worker. Since she is not going home for this election, Brown has been doing phone banking, or volunteering for political campaigns by reaching out to voters over the phone, for some candidates in Indianapolis.  

Even amid skepticism concerning the process of voting by mail, Brown said she is confident her vote will be counted, and she already sent in her mail-in ballot. 

“I don’t have any concerns about it,” Brown said. “The military has been doing mail-in ballots since after the Civil War, [and] they haven’t had any problems with it.”

Brown said she encourages others to vote and has posted resources on her social media to assist  with the voting process. One site she recommends is Headcount.

“It is the most cohesive website that I’ve found to register to vote, and they also allow you to get your mail-in ballot and check your registration status,” Brown said. “This website will get you connected to the people you need to talk to.”

Brown said she is nervous in anticipation for the election, and she wants to convert those feelings into action by encouraging people to vote.

“In the state of our country right now, you need to make your voices known, and to make it clear where you stand,” Brown said. “Let the people in power know what you want to see happen with our country.” 

Madie Ohlinger, a first-year political science and international studies major, also said she is passionate about voting in this election. 

At Ohlinger’s high school, she was able to register to vote in person before COVID-19 hit. She has been registered to vote in Illinois since February, and since Ohlinger was not old enough to vote in the primaries, she is looking forward to voting for her first time by mail. 

After applying for her absentee ballot in mid-September, Ohlinger received her ballot three weeks later and said filling it out made her feel like “she is finally a citizen.” Ohlinger also said she feels she will have a sufficient amount of time for her ballot to be counted before the election and is altogether not too concerned about the mail-in process.

“I know there have been some reports of issues with mail-in voting, and of course that is always a possibility, but altogether I am not really worried about that happening to me.”

After a few more days of doing research on the candidates, Ohlinger said she will feel confident enough to finalize her vote. She wants to take her time to make sure she is comfortable with her decision.  

Victoria Combs, a senior political science and history major and the executive chair for Dawgs Vote, is in a little bit of a different situation. As a then senior in high school, Combs voted in person for the 2016 presidential election. She said she is still deciding what she wants to do this time around.

Combs said she does not want to go home and violate Butler’s COVID-19 policy, and because of Indiana guidelines, she would have to come up with an excuse to get an absentee ballot. These excuses include situations that would make it challenging to vote in person, such as insufficient transportation to the polls. Combs said absentee ballots can pose other challenges as well.

“Sometimes absentee ballots have some finicky aspects to them that make it harder for them to get counted, and you also have to pay attention to the deadlines,” Combs said.

In Indiana, a federal judge rejected the original deadline that absentee ballots had to be received by noon of election day. Instead, any absentee ballot sent on or before Nov. 3 will be counted as long as they are received on or before Nov. 13. 

Early voting, on the other hand, is more straightforward. Combs said people can walk in and vote quickly, days before the election. Additionally, the logistics with finding a time to go home can be tricky, especially with COVID-19.

“There’s going to be a lot of people [voting early], so that is going to be a little uncomfortable if you want to stay away from large crowds as much as possible,” Combs said. “If I were to go vote in-person, I would try to go at an off time [during] early voting.”

Early voting is from Oct. 6 to Nov. 2 in Indiana, and the exact times and dates vary by polling location.

With the discussion by politicians about whether mail-in voting will be effective or fraudulent for this election, Combs said she is a little nervous about absentee ballots. 

“The closer you get to these deadlines, the more nerve-wracking it gets, because you really want your vote to count,” Combs said. “I think [voting by mail is] nice because you can also check and see when your ballot is received.”

If someone checks the status of their ballot leading up to election day, and they realize their ballot hasn’t been received, they can surrender their ballot at their polling location and vote in-person. Because of this, Combs said she believes voting by mail is a viable option as long as people send their ballots quickly enough. 

In Dawgs Vote, students like Combs help others determine the best method of voting for their situation. The organization is dedicated to nonpartisan voter literacy and civic engagement, and they are currently building voter toolkits so students know who they’re voting for. 

As it gets closer to the election, Dawgs Vote will be focusing on posting on social media to link students to resources such as Turbovote, a resource partnered with Butler that provides students with information such as how to request an absentee ballot.

Dawgs Vote is also partnering with SGA’s initiative Dawgs for Democracy to provide students with voting guides. There will be a voting event on Oct. 19 with voting tables located on the Starbucks patio to help students complete the voting process. 

Combs said voting is a great way to have everyone’s voices heard, especially if there is anything people are unhappy with. She recommends that everyone pay close attention to deadlines and do not wait until the last minute to cast their vote.

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