The Iowa caucus is now complete, and the 2020 election season is in full swing. While first-time voters play a big part in any election, it may be challenging to navigate the voting process.
Since voter registration is by county, Texas A&M students who previously lived outside Brazos County may want to either switch their registration or receive an absentee ballot by mail from their home county. Early voting is also an option if voting on Election Day is inconvenient.
There are many tools available to assist students through the process, said Stephen Chang, director of communications in the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.
“The best way for A&M students to get registered to vote and to help make an impact is for them to visit www.VoteTexas.gov,” Chang said. “This is where they can check to see if they’re already registered or find out how to register if they haven’t done so already.”
If a student wishes to re-register to vote in Brazos County rather than vote by absentee ballot, they’d follow the same process as those who are not registered to vote anywhere in the state. Students have two options, said Trudy Hancock, the county’s administrator.
“They can either come to the county’s office in Bryan or fill out the application online,” Hancock said. “However, if you fill out the application online, you still have to mail it in.”
No identification is necessary to register, and the deadline to register is always 30 days before the election in question, Hancock said. The deadline for the Fall 2020 election is Oct. 6.
For early voting, there are five polling places voters registered in Brazos County can go, including the MSC. Early voting always takes place two weeks prior to the election. This year’s primary election is on March 3, so early voting will be open from Feb. 18 to Feb. 28.
If students choose to re-register in Brazos County, it is important to note they would not be able to vote in their home state or county, by mail or otherwise, so they need to consider which choice they prefer. Many students choose to utilize the ballot by mail option, especially if they are out of state or country on election day.
If a student is overseas, such as on a study abroad, Hancock recommends using the Federal Postcard Application. Through this process, students can receive their ballot overseas and then return it so it will be counted in their home county. Blane Counsil, agricultural economics and public policy graduate student, said the process is exceptionally easy.
“The form was self-explanatory, and I returned it to the address on the document,” Counsil said. “After I got in touch with the county, they send the document to you and then you follow the instructions.”
While the process is generally seen as straightforward, it is time sensitive. As a result, election officials stress the importance of having complete forms and meeting deadlines.
“Students often don’t put their complete address on their registration forms, which slows down the process,” Hancock said.
If a form is incomplete, it can still be completed even under the 30 day deadline, as long as the initial paperwork was turned in on time.
Voting in elections is important to A&M students since many of them will be participating in a presidential election for the first time. Counsil said voting is something he makes an effort to do no matter where he is.
“Living in a democratic republic, it is our responsibility to voice our opinion in each election,” Counsil said.