Students Register to Vote Absentee

With the presidential election approaching, many College students from outside Massachusetts are taking advantage of absentee ballots to participate in their home state’s local politics.

Students who are not from the Bay State are faced with voting options: re-registering to vote in Massachusetts, or voting absentee in their home state. Many of them said voting at home, rather than re-registering to vote in Massachusetts as state law allows, has a special importance.

North Carolina native Caroline M. Tervo ’18 said staying involved with local and state politics is very important, especially with a series of important elections coming up—from the gubernatorial race to her local school board.

“I couldn’t imagine voting in Massachusetts because I have such a stake in what happens to North Carolina public schools,” she said.

Different states have varying absentee voting practices. While some states require an excuse to vote absentee, ranging from illness to employment, most do not. The majority of states have a deadline for absentee ballot applications, and some recommend applying at least a month in advance of election day.


Some students feel compelled to vote in swing states if they can, like Victor C. Agbafe, Jr. ’19, also from North Carolina. Polling averages for Democrat Hillary R. Clinton and Republican Donald J. Trump have been within a percentage point of each other for much of the campaign in that state.

“I think every vote counts, not only at the national level, in terms of where those electoral votes are going to go, but also at the state level,” he said.

Absentee voters at Harvard, however, have had a range of experiences in registering. Some students noted minor inefficiencies with the registration process.

Tervo said that, although she has already sent in her absentee ballot request, she has not received her ballot yet due to a new voter ID law in her home state, which changed the identifications required.

Texas resident Marissa Rodriguez ’19 noted that the process was not as easy as in-person voting.

“You have to make sure you have your paperwork submitted so you can receive your ballot before the deadline,” she said. “It’s trivial, but you have to pay for your stamp and go through the extra effort of paperwork.”

Others had no trouble registering at all in their home state.

Evan C. MacKay ’19, an absentee voter from Florida, said the registration process had been smooth, despite switching party registration twice.

“Whether you’re going to vote here in Massachusetts or you’re going to vote absentee, I think it’s important that we just vote,” Agbafe said.


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