For many students, Tuesday’s presidential election is the first in which they are eligible to vote — but some may not be able to cast their votes because of late-arriving ballots.
Despite applying for absentee ballots before their states’ deadlines, several students said they still have not received the necessary documentation to vote before Election Day.
Tom Vitanza, a sophomore criminal justice major, said he still hasn’t received his absentee ballot, and he won’t be able to make the trip to his home in northern New Jersey to vote on Tuesday. Vitanza applied for his absentee ballot on Oct. 24, more than a week before New Jersey’s absentee ballot application deadline.
“I want to vote because it’s important to have my voice heard,” Vitanza said. “This is the first election I can vote in and I’d love to vote but at the end of the day if [the ballot] doesn’t come in time, I simply won’t be able to vote.”
This issue is not exclusive to New Jersey voters. Absentee ballots in Montgomery County have been extended four days after the due date on Nov. 4. Now, absentee ballots can be turned in until the polls close on Election Day. Nearly 17,000 votes in the region could be lost due to a delay in receiving absentee ballots.
Junior advertising major Lauren Marks is from Montgomery County and applied for her absentee ballot on Oct. 20, more than two weeks before the absentee ballot deadline of Nov. 1 in Pennsylvania. She never received her ballot.
Marks said she will have to skip class on Tuesday to go home — a 45-minute drive — to vote.
“This election really matters and people’s voices really matter,” Marks said. “There’s so much desire for everyone to go out and vote and the fact that some people’s votes are not going to be able to count or be made is ridiculous.”
“It’s unfortunate if you don’t have transportation or you can’t skip class that day, you just aren’t going to be able to use your right to vote as an American,” she added.
In Pennsylvania, 300,000 people had registered to vote in the three weeks leading up to the state’s deadline, the Inquirer reported.
This experience is discouraging Vitanza for his future voting habits, he said.
“Just because you go to college, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to vote,” he said. “The absentee ballot system exists for this reason, but when it fails, and not just for me, for so many other people, that’s just a problem with the system as a whole.”
Hannah Katzenmoyer, a freshman biology major, said she applied for her absentee ballot in the second week of October. The Hershey, Pennsylvania native still hasn’t received her ballot and will not be able to vote on Tuesday.
“Us being the future of this country, it’s just super inconvenient that we’re not able to have an affect on it if we’re not able to vote,” Katzenmoyer said.
“I don’t know what people were expecting, it’s not the first election ever,” Marks said. “It may be the most significant one, but [commissioners] should have prepared for this.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.