Home » Sections » News » Librarians organize Vote Absentee Jamboree, following up registration drive

Librarians organize Vote Absentee Jamboree, following up registration drive

By Elianna Spitzer

Section: News

October 28, 2016

The library hosted the Vote Absentee Jamboree on Friday, Oct. 21 to help students vote using absentee ballots. The library will continue to provide stamps, envelopes and notary services for students at the information and borrowing desk until election day, Nov. 8.

The goal of the event was to limit obstacles students face when trying to vote absentee, said Aimee Slater, academic outreach librarian. Absentee ballots are election ballots that can be completed and sent by mail to an election office. They are used by voters who are unable to get to polls on election day.

One of the main obstacles is clarity, according to Slater. Mail-in absentee ballots are not uniform. Due dates, envelope sizes, postage and the need for a notary are elements that depend on the state.

Students may choose to vote using an absentee ballot because they want to have a say in local politics in their home state. Students registered in swing states may also choose to vote by mail. The choice to use an absentee ballot is often a matter of “personal preference,” according to Slater.

Before the event, Slater asked students what the library could do to help them fill out their absentee ballots and a majority of them were concerned about postage. “It’s difficult to get a stamp on campus these days,” Slater said.

Some states require specific envelope sizes. Other states, such as North Carolina, require an absentee ballot to be notarized or signed by two witnesses. “These types of things are very small but can actually prevent people from voting,” Slater said.

There are two ways for students to vote in the upcoming election: registering to vote in Massachusetts or voting by mail with an absentee ballot. Voter registration in most states, including Massachusetts, is now closed.

Each state has different requirements for obtaining an absentee ballot. In 32 states, any registered voter may obtain an absentee ballot and vote by mail, according to Vote.org. The remaining 19 states have a set of requirements for registered voters to get an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots are “the easiest way [to vote] if you don’t want to register in the state that you’re in,” Slater said.

About 65 students attended the event. Slater attributed this number to the fact that many students had not received their ballots in the mail by Friday.

The Voter Absentee Jamboree was the second of two library events encouraging students to vote. The first event focused on registration. Around 150 students representing 22 states attended.

Slater compiled a list of requirements for voter registration and absentee voting on a library research page, accessible to students.

The requirements are “not intuitive”, according to Slater. Slater highlighted Texas and Arizona as states with absentee ballot requirements that were “difficult to maneuver”.

For example, in Texas one is only allowed to vote by absentee ballot if they are 65 or older, are disabled, will be out of the county on Election Day and during the state’s early voting period, or are confined in jail, according to Vote.org.

Slater helped with more absentee ballot applications than she expected. “I really think that shows that students have an investment in what’s going on in their hometowns and their home states,” Slater said.

Students responded to registration and absentee voting through social media. Posts urged friends and family to make voting deadlines. “I’ve always thought that voting was a duty, not as much a privilege or a right,” said Daniela Michanie ’19.

Librarians at other colleges created similar events for registration and absentee voting. “The system only really works when people get out there and do it,” said Slater.

Menu Title