Election Day is 19 days away and college students at schools such as the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Dartmouth College and Keene State College (KSC) are taking advantage of absentee voting and registration options on their respective campuses to ensure their voices are heard in the upcoming election.
There is one more absentee registration day at UNH’s Huddleston Hall and it still has space for registration. Students who want to learn more can visit the UNH Votes webpage for the details, as well as register for the remaining date on Oct. 24, from noon to 4 p.m. Both UNH and the town of Durham are encouraging students to make use of these opportunities to ensure their vote gets cast in the safest manner possible in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Over 60 students were registered early and around 100 got absentee ballots at the first early registration event at Huddleston Hall on Oct. 8, according to Durham Supervisor of the Checklist Ann Shump. She said some of the students received their ballots and took them, while others were returning theirs early, already filled out.
Students who sign up will have the option to decide what they would like to do with their time, whether they want to pick up the ballot on campus, drop one off, or fill it out in the same instance and turn it in to town officials.
Kathleen Roberts who works with a national nonpartisan voter protection group called Voter Protection Corps said she “recommends strongly” that students utilize the opportunities afforded to them on their respective campuses for early registration. Roberts said that getting the registration done early at the very least can help omit interferences on the day of the election and ensure that every student’s voice is heard.
Regional Press Secretary (N.H. and Va.) of NextGen America, Dan Bristol, said the process is going well at the other schools in the area, with KSC already finished with their absentee registration process and Dartmouth with more events to come, similarly to UNH.
With so much focus being on the presidential election, Bristol said students should make sure they are still filling out the entire ballot. “The further down the ballot, the more likely that candidates’ decisions will impact students’ lives.” He said those lower ballot votes are very important for making change.
In past election years, NextGen America has provided rides to the polls for UNH students, but in the midst of the pandemic, it is yet to be determined if those same opportunities will be provided. Bristol said there will be updates on that when it’s decided, but NextGen has partnered with the New Hampshire Youth Movement, who are running rides to the Town Clerk’s office every Friday until Election Day. Students can register for a time slot at mobilize.us and learn more about the rides – which leave from Holloway Commons every half hour.
Uber and Lyft are also offering discounts on rides to the polls (a maximum $7 from Uber and 50% off any ride up to $10 from Lyft) on Election Day.
Poll Worker Program Officer from the nonpartisan group the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights, Reed Walker, emphasized the idea of “making a plan” with peers to vote to help each other commit to the process and hold each other accountable. He said for first timers that “it’s a very cool first time to vote – you’ll be talking about it [this election] for the rest of your life.”
Roberts also suggested the idea of “taking a pledge” or “making a plan” with fellow students, friends or loved ones. Committing to vote with a group of people rather than by yourself increases voter turnout, she said.
“Tripling” is another method of increasing voter turnout: it is the idea that an individual who plans on voting, commits to talking to three friends about voting, holding them accountable
New York Times writer Tina Rosenberg mentions in an opinion article a man named Ken Stanley, a political consultant in Ohio, who “led a randomized trial of polling place vote tripling on the Oberlin College campus during the Ohio primary in March.” His results found that turnout was almost 8% higher among the amount of people who would receive reminders and additional encouragement to vote – according to Rosenberg, a one percent increase is typically valuable.
“Tripling” and “taking the pledge” are both voter turnout methods with the same core purpose: ensuring as many people as possible get their vote out and their voices get heard. Connecting with friends about voting helps encourage responsiveness on Election Day, said Bristol.
The process of these two techniques is not exclusive to political parties, rather they are techniques that can be used by students to encourage their peers to do their part. Regardless of which candidates students support, holding themselves and their peers accountable can make an impact.
Due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker said, with their typical demographic (often individuals 60 years old or more), there is a nationwide shortage of poll workers. In order for this to be the safest and fairest election possible, local towns need younger poll workers – college students specifically – to help out.
Walker said local towns, including Durham, are looking for anywhere between 100 and 150 workers to sign up, and/or be added to a waitlist, to ensure that even if there are late cancellations, the polls will have an adequate number of workers. There is no prior experience needed, although poll workers need to be registered to vote. In order to get a fair collection of people, Walker believes help from republican registered students would be important to balance out the typically left-leaning nature of college campuses, as well as an emphasis on independent voters to keep the polls as neutral as possible.
Walker said they are looking for people with curiosity about the democratic experience. It is an interesting learning experience for students, he said, who are given the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of voting in this country.
To learn more about the polling process or about how to volunteer, students can visit powerthepolls.org to sign up. Students interested in learning additional information about being a poll worker can contact the Durham Town Hall directly. The first training event takes place on Oct. 22, so poll locations are looking for sign-ups in the next week.
As Oyster River High School prepares to register and see thousands of voters on Election Day in the midst of a pandemic, students can use the opportunity to register in person at the town hall located at 8 Newmarket Road in Durham. The state of N.H. does have same-day voter registration, however early absentee voting is encouraged. The town hall is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. If students are unable or feel unsafe registering in person, they can contact the Durham town hall to request an absentee registration packet.
The general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at Oyster River High School located at 55 Coe Drive in Durham. The town anticipates long lines and crowds, so students are encouraged to do their part and register to vote early if they plan on voting in person on the Election Day, or vote by filling out an absentee ballot and returning it to the Town Clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, or by mail. It is recommended to send absentee ballots by mail by Oct. 23, per the Voter Protection Corps.