By McKenna Middleton | Opinion Editor
The deadline to register to vote in the upcoming general election is fast approaching – Oct. 9 for Texas, but some out-of-state Baylor students may be unsure of their options.
Dr. Rebecca McCumbers Flavin, senior lecturer of political science, said college students can “vote where you sleep,” meaning those who are not from McLennan County can either register to vote in Waco or can request an absentee ballot.
“I tell students to choose what they’re most comfortable with,” Flavin said. “If they feel like they have a better sense of who is on the ballot and they’re more familiar with races back home, then vote back home. However, if they are more invested in local politics or, especially for underclassmen, they want to learn more about the community that they are going to live in for the next three or four years, then register here. You have that flexibility and freedom to decide which choice is best for you as a citizen at this stage in your life.”
According to Baylor’s Institutional Research and Testing profile for undergraduate students, out-of-state students make up 30.5 percent of undergraduates in fall 2018. This portion of the Baylor population has to decide which method they will choose this election cycle — and fast. Even students from Texas but outside McLennan County may want to request a vote by mail ballot if they do not plan to go home for Election Day or early voting, Flavin said.
For those that choose to register in Texas, the deadline is Oct. 9, but for those that decide to request an absentee ballot, the dates differ from state to state. In Texas, the absentee application is due 11 days before Election Day, Oct. 25.
Thirty-seven states offer online voter registration through the state’s Secretary of State website. Flavin said going directly to the Secretary of State’s website to register to vote can be quicker than using organizations like vote.org. She also said students can get registration forms in downtown Waco at the voter registration office or at one of the voter registration drives on campus.
“I would encourage students, if they decide to register, if they are from out of state and they decide to register back home to do that pretty soon,” Flavin said. “Because we are approaching here in the next week 30 days before the midterm election. And a number of states do have a 30-day advance of election cutoff for registration. Texas is one of those.”
For out-of-state students already registered in another state but who want to vote in McLennan County while they attend Baylor, Flavin said the process is fairly straightforward.
“The process for that varies from state to state. It’s just as simple as sending a note to say ‘I’ve changed my registration,’” Flavin said. “Some states allow you to do that online. Again, the place to go in any state will be your state’s Secretary of State website. That’s the office that handles voting and election law for every state. Basically, that state is going to treat it like you didn’t show up to vote until they get that letter … It’s not the case that your Texas registration isn’t valid until that state takes you off.”
For students from states without voter ID laws, like California, Flavin said it’s important to remember to bring some form of identification to the polls. Students from Texas can show their driver’s license as they would at polls in their hometown. However, out-of-state students need to show an alternate form of identification. Flavin recommends bringing a passport or something else on this list of acceptable IDs.
Marion, Ill., senior Lily Covey said she has voted with an absentee ballot for Illinois in the past but recently changed her voter registration to McLennan County when she got a Texas driver’s license. Covey said although the process of getting a vote-by-mail ballot went smoothly for her in the 2016 election, she wished the information about registering was more readily accessible. Ultimately, Covey said she is excited to vote in McLennan County because she feels her vote will make a bigger impact.
“When I vote, I feel like my vote almost doesn’t matter because it’s going to go blue anyway,” Covey said of Illinois. “Here, I’m like ‘Wow, I’m super excited to vote for Beto.’ I really want him to win, and I think it would be great to be a part of that historic moment in Texas. I think here my vote matters a little more, in a way.”
Huxley, Iowa senior Austin Allaire will also be voting in Texas for the first time this upcoming election day, and he said he decided to change his vote over to where it would have a bigger impact.
“It seems that things are pretty well determined up in Iowa, but things are a little closer down here in Texas,” Allaire said. “Also just understanding that politics here in Texas has more impact on my day to day life than things that are necessarily happening in Iowa. I’m pretty removed from that at this point, and even as I look beyond graduation knowing that things that are happening here in this state are going to affect me a lot more.”
Allaire also said being a Texas voter gives him more opportunities to be an engaged citizen.
“I think in college, it’s kind of hard because I’ve always been pretty politically active even in my home state of Iowa, but had to drop a lot of that because it’s just hard to be a real advocate or activist in a state that you’re not physically present in,” Allaire said. “It’s harder to go to events or to even consider knocking doors or putting — you know, a bumper sticker for a candidate from Iowa driving around in Texas isn’t really doing anything.”