How-to vote in the 2024 election

Elsa Peterson | Staff Writer |

The town clerks office in Burlington, VT. PHOTO BY AJ BROWN

For many college students, the 2024 election will be the first presidential election they can vote in. Trying to keep up with the constant flow of information can be overwhelming, but understanding the voting process, taking time to learn about the candidates, and recognizing the impact your vote can have will help prepare you for election day. 

Of the 238 million people eligible to vote in the 2020 Presidential election, 80 million chose not to, according to National Public Radio. The right to vote is an opportunity to influence the future we want for ourselves and our communities. For those of you new to voting, the Defender is here to help answer some key questions about the process. 

Who can register to vote? Any United States citizen at least 18 years old and considers Vermont their primary residence can vote in Vermont elections. Burlington, Winooski, and Montpelier cities allow all legal residents, including asylum seekers, refugees, and green card holders, to vote in local elections. Legal residents can vote in elections relating to the Mayor, City Councilors, School Board members, City election officers, and Ballot items about the City. Only U.S. citizens can vote in state and federal elections. These requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to check the requirements for your state.

Indi Schoenherr, a policy advocate at American Civil Liberties Union Vermont, said, “One vote on its own may not matter, however when we think about one vote being added to the larger collective, we the people then have the power to elect policymakers whose vision, words, and deeds are consistent with our shared values.”

How to register: 42 states and Washington D.C. have online voter registration. has links to each state’s election website. You will need a valid photo ID for your first time registering. 

Registration deadlines: The deadline for voting registration depends on the state you plan to vote in. Vermont is one of the 19 states that allow you to register up to and including the day of the election. Other states have deadlines ranging from one day before the election to 30 days before. For example, Massachusetts and New York have a registration deadline 10 days before election day. In Maine and New Hampshire, in-person voter registration is available up to and including election day, but the deadline for mail-in registration is 21 days before the election in Maine and 13 days before the election in New Hampshire. 

What are primaries? Primaries are elections held by political parties to choose their candidates for the general election ballot. 

What are Caucuses? Caucuses are meetings a political party runs where they discuss and vote on their preferred candidate for the general election. Delegates are chosen based on the outcome of the votes and influence each candidate’s standing within the party. Iowa, Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming have democratic and republican caucuses. Alaska, North Dakota, Hawaii, and Missouri have republican caucuses and democratic primaries. 

What if I’m a college student from out of state? Go to your state’s government website and request an absentee ballot. 28 states and Washington, D.C., offer “no-excuse” absentee voting, meaning anyone can request an absentee ballot. Depending on the state, you may need a valid reason. For example, in Connecticut, absentee ballots are only given to people who are out of the county on Election Day, have an illness or disability, are election workers or poll workers, or because of religious beliefs or practices. In New Hampshire and Delaware, you are allowed to request an absentee ballot if you are out of the county on Election Day, have an illness or disability, are working a shift during all voting hours, or because of religious beliefs or practices. 

Amy Hylen, a junior at Saint Michael’s College and Student Government Association Co-secretary of programming, has voted in person and with an absentee ballot from her home state of Massachusetts. Hylen plans on voting by absentee ballot in upcoming elections and believes that voting is incredibly important, “One vote can make a difference, but when we all vote together, we can make an incredibly powerful change,” said Hylen.

Which state should I cast my vote in? As a college student, you may have options most people don’t. Depending on what you declare as your primary residence, you could either register in Vermont or vote in your home state with an absentee ballot. “Think about your vote strategically, and think about where it’s going to have the most impact. If you are in a swing state, then you absolutely should go vote in that swing state,” said Professor Siplon, a political science professor at St. Michael’s College. “You should also look down the ticket if you have strong feelings about a presidential candidate, then you need to look at who else on the ticket is going to support or not support that presidential candidate. If one of their races is tight, then go vote where you can make a difference in that race,” said Professor Siplon.

I filled out my absentee ballot. Now what? You can return your ballot by mail or in person to the town clerk’s office. 

Important upcoming dates: 

2024 Presidential election: Nov. 5, 2024

Super Tuesday: Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine are some states holding an election on Super Tuesday, the date the largest number of states hold primaries and caucuses. 

New York Presidential Primary: April 2, 2024

On election day:

Where do I go? Your polling location is based on your home address and can change from one election to the next. Go to to search your assigned polling location. You will not be able to vote at any other location. Polling locations open between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. In some situations, you can have a ballot delivered to your home and returned to the polling place on Election Day. In this scenario, you must request an absentee ballot before 5 p.m. on the day before the election. 

What do I bring? Only first-time voters who registered by mail have to show an ID in Vermont. All states require identification from first-time voters who register to vote by mail and have not provided verification of their identification at the time of registration. Acceptable forms of ID include current and valid photo identification or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document showing the voter’s name and address. New York, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania don’t require any form of ID to vote. But 38 states have laws requiring voters to show some form of identification. New Hampshire requests an ID, but if they don’t have one, the voter would sign a challenged voter affidavit and vote with a regular ballot. After the election, a mailing is sent, and the voter must sign and return it; if it is not returned, the voter will be investigated for voter fraud. In Rhode Island, if an ID is not presented, the voter votes on a provisional ballot, and election officials match the signature against signatures on record.

What else can I do? “The single most effective thing you can do is call your congressperson,” said Siplon,”Local elections are where decisions get made that impact us the most and where your vote counts most because it might literally be the deciding vote,” said Siplon. 

“Voting is an amazing way to let your voice be heard, but another way is community engagement and community service,” said Hylen.

Go to your election office’s website for more information on state and local elections. Schoenherr said, “I think people forget that they have more agency in local elections, and at times, it feels like the stakes are less than the federal elections we can participate in. However, I think this perspective fails to show that we have the power on a local level to elect people who actually represent our values and our needs,” Schoenherr said.

According to National Public Radio, the most common reasons for not voting include; “Not being registered to vote (29%), not being interested in politics (23%), not liking the candidates (20%), feeling their vote wouldn’t have made a difference (16%), being undecided on whom to vote for (10%).” If you are eligible, your vote matters. Don’t underestimate the impact of a single vote.

If you’re confused by anything related to voting or have questions about candidates, there are lots of resources available. Stay informed and be aware of where you get your information. 

“Ask any question because chances are someone else is thinking that,” Hylen said, “Chances are I might be feeling the exact same way, so let’s figure this out together. Look things up or educate yourself, connect with professors, bring it up in class, and ask friends. It’s ok to not know, there’s so much you can learn and educate yourself on and figure out what decision you want to make for who you vote for,” Hylen said.