A college student’s guide to voting

By Katherine Martin

Politics Editor

Illustration by Alex Vincent

This is why you should vote.

In the 2016 presidential election, only 50 percent of eligible millennials voted, the lowest percentage of any eligible generation. Millennials reported to be largely in favor of Clinton and therefore, lack of participation was crucial to the results of the election.

In recent news, Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court despite three sexual assault allegations made against him. The Senate vote was 50-48 in favor of his nomination. 35 senator seats are up for grabs this election. Your vote matters.

“Not voting is selfish because you’re withdrawing that voice from anybody you are in alliance with,” said Patricia Siplon, professor of political science. “They need you.” Many members of Generation Z are eligible to be first time voters this election. Siplon said she believes they should be actively voting. “Younger people have some decidedly different values than the older generations,” Siplon said. “And they are the ones that are going to be inheriting all these problems so it’s pretty important that they get them out on the table now.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) agreed, when he told the Defender, “Elections help shape our priorities, which affect everyone’s future, and no Americans will be spending more time in the future than today’s college students and other millennials.”

Am I eligible to vote?

  • US citizen
  • 18 years old
  • (other requirements vary by state)

What is a midterm election?

Midterm elections are the federal elections that come between Presidential elections in which voters choose members of Congress.

How can I register?

You can register to vote as a resident of your college state or your home state. Register online. 37 states have applications available on their official website or accessible via vote.org. You can also send an application in the mail which are available online or at an election office. You may also register in person at your local election office. Deadlines to register vary and can be found on states’ official websites.

Absentee ballot? What’s that?

An absentee ballot allows you to cast your vote out of state if you are temporarily living in another place (college students), in the military or overseas. Applications to have an absentee ballot sent to you are available at vote.org. These must be mailed in in order to receive a ballot.

Who are these people?

U.S. Senator

  • Part of the country’s legislative branch, a senator represents the people living in his or her state by writing and voting on new laws called “bills.” Each member of senate (two from each state) is elected to a six-year term. This term, 35 senators are up for election including those from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Maine and Connecticut. Not to be confused with a state senator, who is a member of one of the 49 state legislative chambers that create laws for the state.


  • A mayor is the elected head of a town or city. They oversee the city’s main departments such as police, fire, education, housing, and transportation. Mayors typically serve four-year terms

Representative in Congress

  • Also a part of the legislative branch, representatives (there is one rep for approximately every 750,000 people in the state) hold two-year terms serving the people of a specific congressional district. There are 435 reps with full voting rights and all 435 are up for election this term.


  • A governor is a state’s highest ranking elected official. Governors serve four-year terms in office with the exception of Vermont and New Hampshire, whose governors serve only two-year terms. This term, 36 governorships are up for election including Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut.

What major issues should I know about?


  • Republicans largely believe private companies can provide healthcare services more efficiently than government-run programs.
  • Democrats largely support universal healthcare and fight for strong support of government involvement in healthcare, including Medicare and Medicaid.


  • Republicans are generally against amnesty for any undocumented immigrants. Republicans also fund stronger enforcement actions at the border.
  • There is greater overall support in the Democratic party for offering a pathway to citizenship to certain undocumented immigrants. e.g. those with no criminal record and who have lived in the U.S. for more than 5 years.


  • Republicans believe in limiting the role of the federal government in education and that private sector participation in student financing should be restored. Republicans support options for learning such as homeschooling, charter schools and private schools.
  • Democrats believe everyone should have equal access to high-level education and that a strong public education system is the way to accomplish this. They also believe that students should go to college debt free.

Gun Control

  • Republicans oppose gun control laws and are strong supporters of the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) as well as the right to carry concealed weapons.
  • Democrats favor more gun control laws e.g. oppose the right to carry concealed weapons in public places.

Deadlines for registration?


  • Mail: Wednesday, October 16
  • In person: Thursday, October 17
  • Online: Wednesday, October 16


  • Mail: Tuesday, November 6
  • In person: Tuesday, November 6
  • Online: Tuesday, November 6


  • Mail: Friday, October 12
  • In person: Friday, October 12


  • Mail: Wednesday, October 24
  • In person: Tuesday, November 6


  • Mail: Tuesday, October 16
  • In person: Tuesday, November 6


  • Mail: Tuesday, October 30
  • In person: Tuesday, October 30
  • Online: Tuesday, October 30

What’s at stake?

Currently, Republicans have control of both the House and the Senate. Democrats need to pick up an additional 23 seats to take over the House and 28 seats to control the Senate while Republicans need nine to keep the Senate.

USA.gov has links to each state’s election office website which has election deadlines. For states that have deadlines after October 13, fall break is a great time to go home and register to vote!