Election Day on its way, voting one ballot away

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Jackie Jahfetson

Q: How can students register to vote? 

A: Thanks to the passage of Proposal Three last year and thanks to the lawsuit that was settled by the current secretary of state, we have more opportunities and choices for college students to register to vote wherever they want, including their campus address. 

If a student wishes to vote at a college address, he or she will need to satisfy Michigan’s legal definition of “residency” which  defines residency as “that place at which the person habitually sleeps, keeps his or her personally effects, and has a regular place of lodging.” 

Be aware that registering to vote at a college address which is different than the address on a Michigan driver’s license (DL) or personal ID card will automatically cause the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) to change the DL/personal ID address to match the new voting address. This is required by Michigan law.

Keep in mind that the right to vote is a sacred right and the duty to vote is an important responsibility. When a college student resides in a college town on Election Day (ED), being able to vote locally in the college town can increase the chances the student will exercise this sacred right and fulfill this important duty. 

Q: How can citizens register 15 days or more prior to an election?

A:  All individuals registering to vote, including students, need to state in the one-page application that they will have resided in Michigan and at their college town for 30 days or more prior to ED.  

Through the 15th day prior to an election, a student can register in a variety of ways: in person at the city/township clerk’s office where they live, through a voter registration drive, by mailing the application to the city/township clerk or in person at a SOS branch. The application may also be filled out and submitted online to the SOS. If the application is mailed, it must be postmarked at least 15 days before ED. 

 If a student registers to vote in person at a city/township clerk’s office, the student may be asked to present a photo ID. If a student has moved from another Michigan town to attend college, the student will need to disclose his or her Michigan driver’s license number (DLN) or personal ID number on the application;  if the student has no driver license (DL) or personal ID card, the student will need to disclose the last fourdigits of his or her social security number. 

Q: How are people able to vote within the 14-day period prior to ED? 

A: Prop. Three provides for the right to register and vote up to and including ED. However, from the 14th day before an election through ED, the application may not be mailed in or delivered by someone other than the voter. 

Instead, a student must personally deliver the application to the clerk or fill one out at the clerk’s office. Also, the student must provide adequate proof of residency at the college address. 

Unfortunately, the student’s driver’s license which lists an address different from the college address will not suffice. Instead, Michigan law allows the student to provide any one of the following documents which must contain the student’s name and college address: a current utility bill, a current bank statement, a current paycheck or government check or “other government document.” 

A letter from a public university’s registrar confirming the student’s name and college address might suffice as a government document.  Verification of residency can be electronically disclosed, such as via cell phone.

Q: Explain college registration projects and how it might be beneficial to students? 

A:  Third-party groups or individuals wishing to offer a voter registration projects do not need authorization from a city/township clerk. 

However, it is best to notify the city/township clerk in advance of the project as a courtesy and to obtain the official registration applications and applications to vote an absent voter ballot.  

Q: How can people vote early?

A: Since absentee ballots are available 45 days before ED, registered voters can vote early by absentee ballot by requesting such a ballot from the clerk. A student who has changed his or her voting registration to a college town, can vote by absentee ballot. A student can either mail the ballot back to the clerk  or visit the clerk’s office, obtain the absentee ballot and vote at the clerk’s office or return it later any time before ED. 

Students who prefer to maintain their registration at the town they moved from, can easily request an absentee ballot and submit it by mail to the clerk. 

Q: Did 18 to 20-year-old college students always have the right to vote?

A: The answer is no. Back when I was at the University of Michigan, the 18 to 20-year-old vote did not exist. We were being deprived of our right to vote but many of my friends were being drafted and sent to fight in the war in Vietnam. 

So it was okay that they were being sent to fight in a war that was very unpopular but they couldn’t vote. 

College students of today should remember that young people of yesterday during this horrible conflict paid with their lives to allow students of today to exercise the right to vote. I’m hoping college students will take that right seriously, get out and exercise their rights to democracy.

Marquette County City Clerk office is located at 300 W. Baraga Ave. For more information on voting registration, call 228-0430 or email the office at [email protected]