The 2012 presidential election is just a few weeks away, and people all over the country are preparing to vote. Many students from out of state who are unable to make it home to cast their vote have the added task of voting with an absentee ballot. While not as simple as casting your vote in person, if absentee voting is important to you, follow these simple steps to make sure your voice is heard on Election Day.
Know your deadlines
During important national elections, the enforcement of deadlines tends to be strict. Absentee voting is a two-step process, first mailing in your request for an absentee ballot and second mailing in the ballot itself with your votes. Both have deadlines that are different by state, so make sure they are postmarked by the proper date. Most states require it to be postmarked no later than Oct. 30. And of course, make sure your ballot is received by Nov. 6.
Request your ballot
Many states have absentee ballot applications online, which can be downloaded and printed. Fill out your ballot application and send it to your home state’s Board of Elections. If you happen to be close to your home state, you may also choose to hand-deliver your application.
Wait for your ballot in the mail
This seems simple enough but can be a source of unwarranted stress for many young voters. Ballots arrive at different times depending on where you are from and the date you requested the ballot. Stay patient if your ballot does not arrive at the same time as someone else’s.
Fill out and turn in your ballot
Once you receive your absentee ballot in the mail, the rest is up to you. Vote for the candidate you believe is best suited for the job. A No. 2 pencil is recommended, and most of the other instructions you will need will be clearly written on the ballot. After you finish filling out the ballot, follow the directions to mail it back. As long as the Board of Elections in your state receives the ballot by the time the polls close on Election Day, your vote will be successfully counted.
Remember: every state is different
Each state has its own rules about voting, although the differences tend to be minor. Check out the rules in your state, and take into account any special laws itmay have, although most states follow a pretty consistent guideline for voting.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 22 print edition. Jonathan Keshishoglou is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.