Professor offers insight on the voting process

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With the 2016 presidential election looming,  Indiana is set to take the spotlight soon as it offers its delegates to both the Democratic and Republican parties on May 3. Many candidates, particularly Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Donald Trump (R-NY) have particularly strong support with the under-30 demographic.

With the races for the nomination in both parties closer than usually expected, Indiana will have more effect than it has in the past.

Assistant Professor of History and Political Science Laura Albright explained that part of the reason it can be difficult to vote may be because of the voting requirements. Indiana law requires voters to vote in the area in which they list their address when they register to vote. Although students are legally permitted to claim their campus address as their residence, many opt to vote in their home districts. Because of this, Albright explained, and because of the date of the primary, there may be some difficulties for some students to vote in person that day.

Graphic by Ashlea Alley

Graphic by Ashlea Alley

“The election is Tuesday, May 3, which means it’s during finals week for us. That can be very difficult if a student lives far away,” Albright said, “even if you live close by but you’re preparing for finals, taking finals, recovering from finals, whatever it is.”

However, voters do not necessarily have to be present on election day to vote, according to Albright. There are some other ways to cast a ballot. The first of those is to request a mail-in ballot. If someone requested and mailed in his or her ballot by April 25, then the person could have voted that way. However, the deadline already has passed. For a student to vote absentee, he or she must go to the local county clerk and cast a ballot there.

Freshman international relations major Taylor Carpenter will vote absentee for her first election this year.

“It sucks, because finals week is during the time of the primary. So I will have to request an absentee ballot so I can vote,” Carpenter said. “My schedule is so busy that I was afraid that I wasn’t going to get out in time to vote. But I know with absentee, I’ll be able to get my vote in, and that was my main focus.”

Albright said that the second option is to vote at a local voting site before the day of the primary. Most counties have early voting every weekday and some Saturdays during normal business hours. Those who do wish to vote that way only need to appear to vote during the time that their county has allocated for early voting. For that information, www.indianavoters.com provides the number of the local County Clerk’s Office.

Albright said that it is also important to note that anyone voting in person, either day of the primary or early, will be subject to Indiana’s voter identification policies. Without a proper identification card, no in-person voter will be allowed to cast a ballot.

Albright outlined the rules to ensure that students have the proper identification

“We [the state of Indiana] do have a very stringent voter ID [policy],” Albright said. “Ours is among the most stringent in the country. You have to have an ID that has a picture of you. It has to have your name that matches the voter registration. It has to be issued by the state, so unfortunately your UIndy ID doesn’t count. The fourth thing is that it has to have an expiration date.”

Albright said that with these requirements, the most reliable and easily accepted ID is the standard Indiana driver’s license or Indiana ID card, mostly used for voting purposes. However, U.S. passports and passport cards also will count, although these can be problematic because they are federally issued and not state issued IDs.

Other common IDs, such as birth certificates, social security cards and student identification will not meet the standards for voter identification.

Indiana, in 2014, had the lowest voter turnout rate in the country, with only 16 percent of the state voting in the primary, according to the Indiana Secretary of State’s website.  Also, the young voter demographic historically has the worst voter turnout of any, making Indiana young voters among the lowest voting populations in the country.

Albright points out that few young voters actually end up casting a ballot.

“They [young voters] tend to not vote,” she said. “So with millennials, I think they could matter a lot. And they are a substantive block in terms of voting, because they do account for a large portion of the population, but nonetheless consistently tend not to vote.”

Despite the state’s history of poor turnouts,  Albright said that she has hope that the exciting nature of the primaries will drive up voter turnout.

“It will be interesting since, in 2016, this race has been crazy,” Albright said. “The primaries are already very exciting. I can imagine November [the general election] is going to be wild as well. Maybe the 18- to 30-year-olds really will come out and vote this time. Historically, they really don’t, though.”

For more information on voting options, go to the Indiana Secretary of State’s website at www.in.gov/sos/elections or contact the local County Clerk’s Office.

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