If you’re in college (or heading that way), you’re likely a member of a generation leaving an indelible mark on the social and political landscape of this country. Research shows that Gen Z voted at a higher rate in the 2022 midterm election than Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers did in their first midterm elections, respectively, highlighting a trend of historic political engagement.
But being committed to civic engagement and political change doesn’t mean that you automatically know what to do to cast your vote and have your voice heard. You may have questions on everything from the logistics of submitting your ballot and verifying your eligibility to what issues personally affect you. This comprehensive guide will give you the inside scoop on voting while in college, solutions to some of the challenges you may encounter, and critical resources that will help you feel confident and informed.
Ready to do your civic duty and join the ranks of the voting masses? Keep reading!
Ready: Get Started Down the Path to the Polls
First thing’s first: Let’s talk about the most important and time-sensitive steps you should take as a student to make sure you’re eligible to vote. Once you confirm your eligibility and become acquainted with voting deadlines, you can rest assured that you’re on the path to getting your vote to count. Take a closer look at these two important steps below.
Check Your Eligibility
Before you do anything else, you’ll need to verify whether you’re eligible to vote. According to the U.S. government’s comprehensive voting information site, you can vote in U.S. federal, state, and local elections if you meet the three following criteria:
- Are a U.S. citizen
- Meet your state’s residency requirements
- Are 18 years old on or before election day
Know Your Deadlines
Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, you’ll want to check your state’s voter registration deadline to ensure you begin the process well in advance. Keep in mind, in almost every state, you can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 on or by election day. If you live in North Dakota, you’re in luck: the state does not require voter registration, and if you live in Minnesota you can put the procrastination skills you’ve begun to hone as a college student to use and register on election day.
Set: Prepare to Vote with Confidence
So, you’ve verified your eligibility and know your deadlines — now what? It’s time to ensure you are informed before you step up to the ballot box by researching important issues and choosing which party, if any, you’d like to register with. Here are some of our top tips to voting with confidence.
Review Ballot Measures & Candidate Stances
Spoiler alert: the ballot you’ll encounter on election day is deliberately devoid of information beyond candidates’ names and their party affiliation. This is not the time to be reading the rationale of a ballot measure or a description of the candidates; you’ll need to do that research in advance. Set time aside in the days or weeks before you plan to cast your vote to review both. Sample ballots typically provide detailed descriptions of key issues and candidate stances, but we’ll highlight additional trustworthy sources of information later in this guide as well.
Visit vote.gov to begin the voter registration process. Once there, select your state or U.S. territory and follow the instructions provided to register. You can typically complete this process online, by mail, or in person at your local election office. Many campuses also host ongoing voter registration efforts (the people with clipboards asking whether you’re registered). If you download the National Mail Voter Registration Form, remember to complete the critical step of signing the form before submitting it at your state’s location.
When you register to vote, you’ll have the option to choose a political affiliation. If you do not choose a party, keep in mind that some states will not allow you to vote in a primary election.
Want a quick and easy way to see if you’ve already registered? Visit Can I Vote and select “Voter Registration Status.”
Vote: Get to the Ballot Box
Election day is here and it’s time for you to determine how and when you’ll cast your vote as a busy student juggling academic deadlines, social obligations, and personal commitments. Below you’ll find a couple ideas on how to do so immediately leading up to election day.
Take Advantage of Campus Resources
College campuses can be some of the most convenient places to learn about candidates and access the ballot box. If you’re attending college at one of ALL IN’s Most Engaged Campuses for College Student Voting, for example, you have access to an institution that is making intentional efforts to increase nonpartisan democratic engagement and college student voting by hosting on-campus voting, guest lectures and town halls, and/or provide volunteer opportunities.
Vote Your Way: Make a Plan That Works for You
Whether you’re attending an engaged campus or not, making a plan to participate in upcoming elections should be part of your personal homework. If you’re attending college out of state and have residency, the choice is yours to vote in your hometown or in your college town. If you choose to vote in your hometown by absentee ballot, you’ll have to plan ahead. If you’re voting in person, remember that your busy schedule may require you to commit to voting between classes, or taking time off work. This can be tedious at times, and you should expect to encounter and have an idea of how to manage snags like long lines at the ballot.
You Belong at the Ballot Box: Challenges and Solutions to Voting
If you meet voting eligibility requirements and have taken care of all the necessary logistical requirements, you have a fundamental right to vote. Some groups of students, however, may face additional challenges when voting. Below, we’ll discuss some of these challenges and their potential solutions.
Reality Check: Debunking College Voting Myths
Because most Americans vote, you’ll find that nearly everyone has a series of personal stories and beliefs about the process. Perhaps you’ve heard these from a friend or family member, or maybe you’ve seen certain claims made on social media. As legitimate as everyone’s experience is, what they share afterward may not be accurate. Let’s take a few minutes to dispel some of the more common myths and misconceptions about voting in college.
Voting Issues That Matter Most to You as a Student in Healthcare
As a college student in the healthcare arena, you’ll find that certain political issues are more personal to you and relevant to your future career, some of which will affect you as a student and others as a working professional. In the following section, we’ll provide an overview of some of those issues.
Education Costs & Access
With skyrocketing tuition impacting students at most colleges and universities, this hot-button topic is becoming prime political fodder. In fact, new research from The Century Foundation reveals that voters affiliated with all political parties want the government to address the soaring cost of college. Your involvement in this cause could pave the way to lower tuition and increased access to college for future healthcare students.
Healthcare Reform & Regulations
Sweeping partisan divisions and court challenges threatened the passage and initial implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and the years following its passage have been fraught with similar obstacles. As an allied healthcare student, you likely believe receiving quality care is a basic human right, making this a potentially meaningful cause to which you can lend your voice.
Public Health Initiatives
The COVID pandemic has placed public health in the spotlight, but there are many more initiatives that require resources from national, regional, and local representatives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created this list of the nation’s most pressing health problems. This is a good place to start researching public health initiatives that may be important to you.
Pandemics, artificial intelligence, global warming, genetic engineering: these are just a few examples of the many high-stakes research areas vying for federal funding. But who decides which projects get funded, and how do they decide? As Harvard researchers explain, “These questions are central to a longstanding debate surrounding the role of science and technology in modern society.” Your commitment to science and experience in healthcare education combine to give you a springboard into the conversation on future research funding, should you realize this is a subject you feel passionate about.
Universal labor standards, union formation, the use of artificial intelligence, immigration, and discrimination in the workplace are among the hottest topics pertaining to worker rights today. This is a historic time rife with controversial worker rights questions, making this a political cause with abundant opportunities for civic engagement.
Staying Informed on Campus & Online: The Ultimate Resource List
Below, you’ll find 10 resources that will help you better understand, protect, and advocate for your voting rights as a college student. The organizations, nonprofits, and educational institutions we’ve linked to below offer comprehensive resource guides, issue breakdowns, and more — all of which are designed to empower you as a voter.
- AAMC Fact Sheet for Nonpartisan Voter Registration – The Association of American Medical Colleges has developed this list of tips and tactics in collaboration with Vot-ER, a nonpartisan organization that works to integrate voter education into healthcare settings.
- ACLU: Know Your Voting Rights – The American Civil Liberties Union provides insights into how you can exercise your voting rights, resist voter intimidation efforts, and access disability-related accommodations and language assistance at the polls.
- Campus Vote Project – The Campus Vote Project and Fair Elections Center provide state-specific student voting guides. These guides feature deadlines, required voter registration documentation, and answers to FAQs.
- Civic Nation – Learn more about Civic Nation at their resource-heavy site. This nonprofit is working to build a more inclusive and equitable America, bringing together individuals, grassroots organizers, industry leaders and influencers to tackle the nation’s most pressing social challenges.
- Language Rights in Voting – If English isn’t your native language, you may have the right to language assistance and translated materials when you vote. This site will give you a foundational understanding of these rights and how to invoke them.
- Protecting Native Voter Services – Too many Native voters still encounter difficulties registering to vote and casting ballots. But voters can weather discriminatory policies by using this site’s tools to organize, advocate, and vote.
- Resources for Voters with Disabilities – The United States Election Assistance Commission has compiled this list of resources to help Americans with disabilities vote and advocate for their rights.
- University of Michigan Issues Exploration – This guide from the University of Michigan offers insight into how students can find trusted informational resources, research social issues, and make informed decisions.
- Vot-ER – This nonpartisan organization connects healthcare advocacy with civic engagement, suggesting that communities are healthier when more voters participate in democracy. Learn why August is considered “Civic Health Month” and access voting resources at this comprehensive site.
- Why College Student Voting Matters – Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement created this compelling document to advocate for the importance of voting on college and university campuses.