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capitol-building-close-and-american-flags-washington-d-c-2020-elections-guide01

Capitol Building in Washington D.C. 

Credit: Ezra Troy

This semester has presented unique challenges for our Penn community. While fatigue from Zoom classes and the never-ending news headlines may be setting in, we are quickly approaching another challenge that needs to be faced: making sure the youth voice is heard this election. With Nov. 3 only 27 days away, students must make sure that they are prepared with the knowledge and resources needed to cast their ballot and make a difference in their democracy.

Young people are the future of the country, and many of the decisions being made today will affect us for the rest of our lives. However, by turning out at lower rates than older generations, we are allowing others to make these decisions for us. If you want to have a say in your future and America’s future, make sure that you turn out to vote, and encourage your friends to do the same. Remember, when you vote this fall, you are not only voting for president: you are voting for members of Congress, state and local officials, and ballot propositions. Voting for local candidates is one of the biggest ways you can have an impact on your community. Voting is how you exercise your power to effect the change you want to see in your community. 

Paying close attention to voter registration and mail-in ballot deadlines is imperative to ensuring that we can make our voices heard this election. More than half of all states require that voters register prior to Election Day. That includes Pennsylvania, which has a voter registration deadline of October 19th. In addition, states have varying deadlines for requesting and submitting mail-in ballots. In Pennsylvania, if you plan to vote by mail, applications must be received by your county election office by 5 PM on October 27th.

This week is National Voter Education Week, an opportunity for students to learn about the election, their ballot, and how to vote this fall. The various steps that have to be taken and deadlines that have to be met in order to vote can seem overwhelming, but educating yourself is one of the most powerful tools you can use to make sure that your vote is counted. You can also learn about the importance of poll workers and sign up to be one.

There are three main methods by which you can vote this year. First, you can vote by mail. This method saves you the trouble of heading to any polling location and allows you to complete the entire voting process from your residence. Second, you can vote at an early polling location. This option gives you the flexibility to choose when you want to head to the polls while still making voting a one-step process where you can register, fill out your ballot, and turn it in all at once. Third, if you feel comfortable, you can head to the polls in person on Election Day. With this method, if you have already registered, you do not have to do anything before Election Day to prepare (except for research the candidates and propositions on your ballot and check your polling place).

Students are under a high amount of stress right now, from the COVID-19 pandemic, assignments and exams, and the challenges of daily life. But we implore students to take a small amount of time to register to vote if you have not already. If you want to vote by mail, make sure you request a mail-in ballot by your state’s deadline. As we reach the end of a year that has presented all of us with unprecedented obstacles, it is more important than ever that students and young people vote.

Penn Leads the Vote is also here to help with any and every voting-related question or concern. We can be reached at any time by email at pennvotes@upenn.edu. Students are encouraged to visit http://pennvotes.org for customized voter information and resources. Please ensure that your vote is counted by making a voting plan and sticking to it. Because your voice matters.

NICHOLAS WILLIAMS is a College sophomore and a Communications Fellow for Penn Leads the Vote.

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