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Credit: Tiffany Pham

President Donald Trump won the state of Pennsylvania in 2016 by less than 50,000 votes. Two years on, Pa. is slated to be a swing state again in the impending midterm elections. And while political groups on Penn's campus have expanded their efforts this semester to boost voter turnout, not all students have chosen to vote in Pennsylvania. 

Maddie Magee, an Engineering sophomore from South Pasadena, Calif., said she would have liked to be able to vote in Pennsylvania since it is a swing state, but ultimately could not because she had to submit her driver's license to the Judicial System of Pennsylvania earlier this year in order to explain an absence from jury duty. 

Magee, who received a call to carry out jury duty in Pennsylvania, needed to be with her family in California during the days she was required to appear in court. 

“The easiest way for me to actually get out of jury duty was for me to prove that I don't live in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania, and that meant sending a picture of my driver's license," Magee said. When Pennsylvania discovered she was not a permanent resident of the state, her right to vote as a Pennsylvania resident was revoked. 

Magee said she found this regrettable because she believed that her vote would have mattered more in a swing state. 

“As someone from California, it made a lot of sense for me to now register in Pennsylvania," Magee said. "California will pretty much always be blue and here where it was much closer to being a swing state due to the 2016 elections, I thought I should just change my voter registration."

College sophomore Jack Callahan decided not to vote in Pennsylvania for the opposite reason: as a resident of San Antonio, Texas, Callahan believes his vote will have more of an impact if cast at home. While Callahan will be casting an absentee ballot this election, due to logistical issues Magee was not able to register in California or Pennsylvania. 

Photo from Maddie Magee

Although she can't participate in this election, Magee said she has been encouraging her peers to vote and also plans to re-register in Pennsylvania next year well in time for the 2020 elections. 

College sophomore Sam Kaufmann has chosen not to vote in Philadelphia – but will vote in the state of Pennsylvania. As a resident of Bethlehem, Pa., Kaufmann chose to vote in his home district where there are closer races for local municipal seats than there are in Philadelphia.

“At the local level in terms of county politics, municipal politics, and the state legislature, all those seats are locked down by Democrats in this particular area and in University City. But that’s not true of Bethlehem, Lehigh Valley,” Kaufmann said. “It’s one of the relatively few remaining truly purple districts of the country.” 

After working on local political campaigns, Kaufmann learned by voting through an absentee ballot in Bethlehem he could make a greater net impact in both local elections and in Pennsylvania's statewide races. 

Photo from Jack Callahan

Callahan, who will also be voting via an absentee ballot this election cycle, said he believes college students away from home are placed in a unique set of circumstances that may explain their historical tendency not to vote.

“Many students are not from the state in which they are studying, so kids will either choose not to vote in Pennsylvania because they say it's not their state or they will choose not to vote at all because they say it's too difficult to vote absentee ballot," he noted. 

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