Drexel University prides itself in being one of the most civically engaged institutions in the country. With such a title, it only seems fit that the student population be actively involved in our community and in our elections. However, college-aged individuals are notorious for low voter turnout, as in both the 2016 and 2018 elections, only approximately 46 percent of eligible college-aged students cast a ballot. As Drexel’s Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA), we seek to assist our fellow students in combating such a statistic and encourage our peers to cast their ballots in this year’s election.
The process of casting a ballot can be daunting when presented with the rules and regulations of different states, especially for students away at college who hold dual residency. Between classes, co-op, extracurriculars, and navigating COVID-19, it is difficult for students to find time to sit down, research, and plan out how they will be voting in the next month.
For this reason, our Civic Engagement Committee has researched and outlined every step in the voting process so our students can successfully take part in this year’s election without worry of missing information or deadlines. We hope with this information that every student takes the time to figure out their Election Day game plan and is ready to put it to action for the 2020 election.
General Voting and Polling Information
Each state decides how to handle their voting procedures differently. Some states have more stern rules about absentee and mail-in ballots than others and some even allow a voter to register to vote on the day of the election. It is important to know where you are registered to vote and what the rules are in your area so you can follow the correct guidelines and successfully cast your ballot. To see what differs from state to state, find out how to register in your area, and learn more about the voting process for local, state and national elections.
Depending on your area, you may have a few extra questions on the ballot that you can vote on during the election. These questions matter! Make sure you read them over and think about your answer before voting one way or another. These questions also vary from county to county, so what you may see on your ballot, your friend in the county over may not see on theirs.
If you wish to get more involved in the election process to help it run more efficiently, you can volunteer to be a poll worker! There is a shortage of poll workers for this election due to the pandemic, and polling stations everywhere are looking for more people to help work the polls. Find your state/county’s poll worker information and sign up. Some counties even offer compensation to their poll workers for the day. If you’d like to become a poll worker in Philadelphia, you can apply here.
How to Vote
First, find your local government’s contact information. They have all the information you need to vote in your jurisdiction, so make sure to reach out to them with questions.
Then, you need to make sure you’re registered to vote. It takes 30 seconds! If you are not registered, what are you doing?! Some states allow you to register the day you vote, but Pennsylvania is not one of those states. Here’s how to begin the registration process for any state.
Once you are registered, you now must formulate a voting plan. If you are not close enough to your home address to vote in person, but you wish to vote in your home county, you must request an absentee ballot. Here’s how to find out how to request a mail-in ballot for your state. For Pennsylvanians, the last day to request is Oct. 27, but we’d recommend doing so as soon as possible. Once they receive your request, you will receive a ballot in the mail. Make sure to open your ballot as soon as possible and follow the instructions given for how to send it back in.
If you change your mind and want to vote in person or your mail-in ballot arrives damaged, you will then need to surrender your ballot and the envelope on Election Day to your polling place to be turned in and voided, and then you can vote in person on your county's voting system. It is recommended to do so this way as requesting another ballot by mail might result in significant delays and could risk your chance of voting.
Another option for college students like our fellow Dragons is to register to vote in the area your university is located in. You cannot be registered in two places at once, but you can change your registration to Philadelphia and that way you can vote in person. Here’s more information on how to begin this process. You must indicate that you wish to change your voter registration information.
If you wish to vote in-person, (after you register to vote) you will need to find your local polling place. You can do so here. Drexel’s nearest polling place is right on campus in the Daskalakis Athletic Center, but be sure to double check your polling location before dropping off your ballot or heading out on election day.
Most states allow you to drop off your absentee ballot at an election office or polling location, however, check in with your local election office/polling location to make sure they are using this policy. If you drop it off and your location is not utilizing this policy, then your ballot will not count.
If you wish to use a ballot drop-box, where you can drop your absentee ballot, be careful! There are only a few states openly advertising this, so be sure to contact the local government of the area you will be voting to get exact directions on this.
Some states allow early voting, meaning you can vote before election day in certain circumstances. Check on your state’s rules for early voting, and make sure to check in with your local government to make sure you are eligible for early voting.
During this election, it's imperative to note the different dates and procedures to support a successful vote. Although dates and deadlines vary by state (find information at Vote.org), we will focus on Pennsylvania.
To begin, Pennsylvania residents have the option to vote in person, by mail, and by absentee ballots. In-person voting is available to registered individuals who meet the First-Time Voter ID Requirements and COVID-19 safety precautions. The necessary safety precautions can be found on cdc.org in preparation of Election Day. Voters must also vote at their polling place. Here’s where Pennsylvania voters can find the location of their polling place.
Pennsylvania residents can likewise vote by mail-in and absentee ballots. Mail-in ballots are available for request without reason; however, absentee ballots limit access based on the cause. Absentee ballots typically require a reason pertaining to an individual’s inability to be physically present at their polling location on Election Day.
Furthermore, Pennsylvania's deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election is Oct. 19, regardless of voting method. The last day to request mail-in and absentee ballots for Pennsylvania is Oct. 27, and it must be returned and postmarked by Nov. 3.
With the use of the information we’ve provided, you’ll be set to participate in the upcoming election! If you have any more questions, find resources and frequently asked questions on the Drexel Votes website.
The authors of this piece are:
Maisie MacMullan, a fourth-year health sciences major and the USGA civic engagement chair
Maria Sims, a fifth-year health sciences major and the USGA director of communication
Amirah Brew-Syders, a second-year criminology and justice studies major and the USGA sophomore class representative