In an effort to prepare for mail-in voting, StampsToStudents is distributing free stamps to college students.
StampsToStudents is a nonpartisan effort founded by two college professors, Danny Erdberg and Ursula Kwong-Brown, and allows any college student in North Carolina and Florida to request a stamp to use to mail their ballots.
Erdberg and Kwong-Brown said these states were chosen because young voters would have the most influence and the states do not provide free stamps along with a mail-in ballot.
Erdberg said during this unprecedented time, an increased amount of students will vote by mail due to COVID-19 safety concerns, which means they will be dependent on processes that can be difficult and convoluted.
“This is such an unusual year,” Erdberg said. “This year, there are all of these people who are going to be voting, both for the first time for students, and also for the first time by mail, which is this whole, convoluted process. Nobody makes it easy.”
Students and young adults made up nearly 30 percent of the voting eligible population in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. But they continue to turn out to vote at historically low rates, according to the Campus Vote Project.
Carrboro Town Council member Barbara Foushee said it is critical that college students vote in elections, and this effort is a good way to encourage that.
“It's important for college students to vote in every election,” Foushee said. “This election here is particularly important for any number of reasons. It is the election of a lifetime, right? Democracy is literally on the ballot. The soul of our nation is on the ballot.”
In response to these realities, Erdberg and Kwong-Brown launched a website where students can request a stamp to be delivered at their door. They have raised about $2,800 to fund the stamps, and Erdberg said on Monday, they sent out their first shipment of over 400 stamps.
In North Carolina, the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27, but it is recommended that you do so before in order to return your ballot by the deadline of Nov. 3.
President of UNC Young Democrats Rupi Jain said this effort makes voting more accessible, which will make democracy more accessible to people.
“The real reason to make mail-in voting widely accessible isn't to help one party over another, but it's to help American people participate in their own democracy as fully as possible,” she said.
Jain also said it is important for college students to vote because the presidency is not the only race on the ballot.
“Your representative of the North Carolina General Assembly will make a hell of a lot more difference than President Trump or Biden will,” she said. “We’re voting for about 20 other races, especially here in North Carolina. We have one of the longest ballots in the entire United States.”
UNC student Vance Young said the effort has the potential to be successful. He said distance from where students are registered and uncertainty are the biggest obstacles for college students to vote.
“Easy access to mail-in ballots and candidate information are critical for college students’ voting turnout,” Young said.
Aside from these barriers, Kwong-Brown also said the dynamics of campuses have changed. She said because of the pandemic, students are running into the issue where there aren't the same college resources available as there usually are. She said campuses usually make it easy to vote, but now students are going to have to be more self-organized than any other election cycle by making a plan.
“The overall goal is to just help students to vote,” Kwong-Brown said. “We want the students to vote. If there is anything we can do to make that easier, by giving them a stamp or by following up with reminders about registration deadlines. We just want students to vote.”
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