Ah, fall. The season of yellowing leaves, cable-knit sweaters, and voter registration cards. Fall at Yale is the season of political pleas, when student activists canvass the campus, doing everything in their power to ensure that every Yalie is in a voting booth on Election Day. But with this fall’s hotly contested presidential race, the standard voter registration drives are taking an atypical turn. On-campus political groups are helping students in swing states register to vote in their home states and holding absentee ballot drives to teach students how to navigate the process.
Republicans and Democrats alike want to teach students to take advantage of the numerous states where polling indicates the presidential race will be close. There are, of course, the expected swing states — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania — but this year there are others, too, states like Colorado and Virginia, where the election could be reasonably close for the first time in decades.
Students from these states, and others, have the potential to have a huge impact on this race, and we encourage students who feel invested in their home states to vote there. Sure, that requires going online and filling out forms in advance instead of just walking over to Dwight Hall on Nov. 2, but students shouldn’t use laziness as an excuse. Everyone gets one vote, but not all votes end up counting equally. Republican or Democrat, students should consider where they have the potential to make the most difference. And for many of us, that place is not Connecticut, which is almost certain to go to the Dems. Deadlines for applying for an absentee ballot are fast approaching, and now is the time to decide.
It certainly seems easier to vote in Connecticut, but students shouldn’t be discouraged by the absentee voting process. It may seem like absentee votes — which may not be counted until long after election day or maybe not at all — are throwaways, and sending off a piece of paper weeks before an election certainly doesn’t have the same feel of participatory politics that walking into a voting booth on election day does. But that shouldn’t matter. Given how the 2000 election ended, no one should question the importance of casting a vote.
But there is more to it than simply planning your presidential vote strategically. If you’re going to vote in your home state, actually vote in your home state. Read up about local issues if you haven’t been following them. Study the local races. The smaller the issue or the race is, the more your vote counts. There are competitive races, especially for congressional seats, and important referenda taking place all over the country. It would be tragic to get an absentee ballot and then send it in with only a single line — the one for the presidential candidate — filled out. Don’t view an absentee ballot, or any ballot, as important only for its potential to hand victory to your ideal presidential candidate. Hard as it may be to believe, there is more at stake in November than simply who ends up living in the White House.