For many NYU students, the 2016 election will be their first time voting. Although this should be an exciting opportunity, there is a bigger problem looming over the heads of many college students: the absentee ballot system. Even though many first-time voters rely on this process while they are away at college, it is overly complicated often to the point where some college students’ votes are never even counted.
At NYU, we have United States citizens from all fifty states. Because of this, many students need to vote via mail in order to participate in a presidential election. In a world where virtually everything can be done easily over the internet, one would think this process would be fairly simple. After all, in an ideal world, every United States citizen who is over eighteen should be able to vote without any complications. However, this is not the case. Even after going through the initial process of registering to vote, most states require you to browse through a poorly designed website in order to request an absentee ballot form. Many states also require you to print, fill out and send your request form via snail mail. Only after this is done do you receive an actual ballot by mail just days before the election. Even after filling out and mailing the ballot itself, there is no guarantee that your vote will make it to your home state in time to actually be counted. In fact, one NPR study found that in the 2012 presidential election, a shocking quarter of a million absentee ballots were secretly never counted. One would think this would infuriate lawmakers, but they continue to look the other way.
This year, there are an estimated 20.5 million American college students. An overwhelming number of these students support so-called radical ideas like socialism and libertarianism. In other words, when these students are allowed to vote, new ideas win, and the status quo that our current leaders represent loses. One has to wonder, if the absentee ballot process was simplified, would our candidates should still be Clinton and Trump, or a Libertarian and a Socialist instead. It is speculated that our government has the technology to do anything from listen to our phone calls to deploy nuclear weapons in a matter of minutes, yet nothing has been done to improve voting technology — the cornerstone of our democracy. The idea that the political establishment would purposely look the other way from dysfunctional and outdated absentee voting systems is a grim one, but if this election has taught us anything, it is that problems like these, and their grave consequences, are why we need voting reform.
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Email Andrew Heying at [email protected]