Some students may be left scrambling to find a way to vote in the upcoming Illinois General Primary Election March 20.
Roughly 80 percent of the SIUC student body attends from farther than one county away or from out-of-state, according to data from university institutional research and studies. Unless a student acquires a residential address in Jackson County and re-registers to vote with his or her new address, they must vote based on their home address, according to the website for the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Absentee ballots, early voting and spring break can offer students foreign to the southern Illinois area the opportunity to have their voices heard.
Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, spoke Tuesday afternoon for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute on Assuring Fair Elections in Illinois in the Student Center Ballroom B.
David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said the institute strives to bring experts to campus to help the campus and community, and Borgsmiller knows more about elections in Illinois than anybody else.
During his lecture, Borgsmiller emphasized the importance of each vote.
The governor’s race in 2010, which was decided by less than 200 votes, proves each Illinoisan’s vote can make a difference statewide, he said.
The 80 percent of SIUC students who may need to find alternative ways to vote first need to educate themselves on the candidates, Borgsmiller said.
“Read the paper, use the Internet, watch the news — you have to be confident that the candidate you’re voting for is the right person,” he said.
One way to vote away from home is to request an absentee ballot.
Absentee ballots can be requested in Illinois up to 40 days in advance of the election, until five days prior and will still be counted if postmarked no later than midnight on the night before election and received within 14 days after the election, Borgsmiller said.
This means absentee ballots can be requested until March 15, must be mailed by March 19 and arrive by April 3 in order to count for the Illinois General Primary Election.
“Yesterday would be the best day to request an absentee ballot,” Larry Reinhardt, Jackson County Clerk, said. “The longer a student waits, the less chance they have of receiving their ballot in time.”
In the absence of an absentee ballot request, students may also walk into their local election authority’s office and cast their vote during offered hours, Borgsmiller said.
This early voting method can be pursued up to 40 days prior to Election Day until the day before, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
A registered voter looking to vote early must provide photo identification as opposed to voting on election day, when generally no identification is required except signature verification.
Borgsmiller said students should take advantage of their spring break to pursue early voting.
“Regardless of the hassles there are to vote as a college student away from home, do it,” Borgsmiller said. “When I was a student here, I just got out and voted because to me, it’s a right that I hope we never ever lose.”