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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: How to make your vote heard this election cycle

Voting stations stand empty at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Election Day, Nov. 2, 2021.

This year's primary election will happen in May, after many students leave Chapel Hill to return to their hometowns or embark on summer travels.

For students spending the majority of their year in Chapel Hill, and are registered to vote in Orange County, voting in this election may prove unjustly burdensome.

North Carolina has placed numerous restrictions on mail-in voting, such as no longer allowing voters to submit ballot request forms via email or fax, a shorter post-election grace period and reduced ability to fix errors on ballots.

Absentee ballots are crucial to making sure the Chapel Hill community is heard, especially by the students who live and work in the town for the majority of the year. This is especially crucial for out-of-state students registered where they go to school, as well as UNC students living in Chapel Hill, but registered in their hometown.

Since the primary occurs after students move off campus, the only way out-of-state students can vote in the N.C. primary is if they mail it in. Placing restrictions on mail-in voting discourages people from participating in an election they otherwise would have participated in.

Historically, young adults have voted at lower rates than older cohorts, signifying that the State Board of Elections should do more to ensure that the young population has fewer barriers against voting instead of more. 

There is a misconception that younger people don’t vote because they’re apathetic or politically disengaged, but this is far from reality. Younger people are more likely to report that they experienced barriers in voting such as not being able to get off work, not receiving their ballot in time or trouble finding and accessing their polling place. 

With the election being in May, this is when students need resources and support.

Without proper civic education, the student population might not be adequately represented. 

College and university students are increasingly ethnically diverse, low-income and first-generation. An increase of student voting can close equity gaps in political participation, according to a study by Tufts University's Institute for Democracy & Higher Education. 

To help bridge the gap in civic education, here’s the Editorial Board’s guide to casting an absentee ballot:

To vote by mail, you first need to complete an absentee ballot request. This must be requested online by May 10.

The deadline to submit your ballot is then May 17 at 5 p.m. 

If you are returning your absentee ballot by mail, make sure that it is postmarked by 5 p.m. on Election Day and received no later than 5 p.m. on the Friday after the election. 

Once you receive your ballot, fill it out in the presence of two witnesses. 

Once your ballot is complete, do these three things before returning it:

  1. Seal the ballot in the return envelope provided.
  2. Complete and sign the absentee application and certificate on the return envelope.
  3. Have two witnesses (or one notary public) complete and sign the return envelope in the space designated as witness’s certification.

The State Board of Elections allows you to track your ballot with Ballottrax. You can track your ballot from when your county board of elections sends it to you through to when your completed ballot is received by election officials.

By sending in your vote, you can have a profound impact on state politics. 

The more our student leaders and University advocate for accessible voting practices, the more our community can help to close the gaps in representational inequality. 


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