Absentee Ballots & Voter Registration

By Paige Carrick

Staff Writer

November 4, 2008 will be an historic day for our country. Just in case you didn’t know, Nov. 4 is the day America will vote her next president into office. For many college students the election may seem far removed from our everyday life; however, once the ballots have been cast and the votes counted, whomever we have chosen will make laws and decisions that will directly affect our everyday life.

You also may be thinking that because you are away from home earning your degree your vote just won’t count this year. You can’t afford the gas to make it home, or you can afford the gas but can’t afford to miss your classes. Although those excuses may be good enough to delay going home a few extra weeks, don’t think you can be as easily excused from exercising your patriotic privilege and duty.

Your vote can count this election year and you don’t even have to leave Cullowhee! How is that, you ask? The United States Government has provided a way for it’s citizens to cast their ballots if they are out of town, out of state, or even out of the country with the handy Absentee Ballot. The Absentee Ballot is a voting ballot that is sent through the U.S. Postal Service directly to your personal mail box or suite box. It is designed to be used by any registered voter if they are unable to be in their home county on any election day.

An absentee ballot can be requested by mail with a handwritten letter containing the voter’s name (that would be you), residential address, mailing address (if it’s different from your residential address), date of birth, and signature of the voter or near relative. The near relative must indicate their relationship to the voter and can be anyone in the immediate family: spouse, brother/sister, step-relatives, parent or grandparent. The handwritten request must be received by the voter’s respective county board of elections before the last Tuesday before the election. Translation: write a hand written letter of request to your home county’s board of elections before Sept. 28 if you want a say in who will be the next president. To find the address of your county’s board of elections do a Google search of “(your county) board of elections”.

Once the board of elections confirms that you are eligible to vote with an absentee ballot they will send you an application and ballots in which you will cast your vote with. The county board of elections must receive the voted ballot by 5:00 pm the day before the election. Otherwise, it will not be counted.

Now, if you are a registered voter, you know your voice can be heard even miles from home and you know what you need to do to be heard. But for those who aren’t registered to vote, absentee voting is not an option for you. You need to register to vote immediately! It is your given right, honor and privilege to vote, so use it.

But don’t worry, registering to vote is just as easy, if not easier, as applying for an absentee ballot. However, there is more of a time crunch to beat in registering to vote compared to applying for absentee ballots. You must have submitted a registration by the 25th day before the election. Translation: you have until October 10, 2008 to register to vote. If you are voting absentee as well, you should allow time for that process too.

If you are unsure of your

eligibility check the

following list of criteria:

•You must be a U.S. Citizen.

•You must register to vote by state. (North Carolina requires you to be a resident of the state and county for 30 days before the election).

•You must be 18 years old by the next election

•You are not registered to vote in any other county or state

If you have been convicted of a felony, your rights of citizenship have been restored.

One easy way to register is by going online to www.rockthevote.com. At rockthevote.com simply click on “register to vote” on the site’s homepage. There will be a simple form to fill out with basic information like state of residence, date of birth, full name, etc. but have your driver’s license handy because they will ask for that as well. Once you fill out the form, rockthevote.com will e-mail you a registration card filled out with your information. Also, they include the proper mailing address to send the registration card to. So all you have to do is print it, sign it, stuff it, stamp it and mail it. It’s that simple and will probably take an easy 10 minutes maximum, not counting the walk to the UC or your mail box. Another cool thing about rockthevote.com is the incentive of free music. Sheryl Crow has promised to give a copy of her new album, “Detours”, to the first 50,000 people that get three friends each to register to vote through rockthevote.com. Translation: get the word out, especially to those who are not registered to vote and you get a free CD! Even if you sign up other people to inform them about rockthevote.com, you will get a free download of a song from the new album. You get rewarded for just getting the word out.

If Sheryl Crow, free music, or trendy political gimmicks aren’t your thing, then you can always go the Jackson County Public Library or to the nearest DMV, as long as you are already conducting some type of business with them, or contact the County Board of Elections office to receive the registration card in the mail. Once you fill out the registration card simply mail it to the appropriate county board of elections.

You have no excuse now: you are well informed of the basic ins and outs of voting in North Carolina.

For additional information on voter registration, absentee voting, or polling locations go to www.rockthevote.com, www.sboe.state.ne.us or contact the Jackson County Board of Elections at (828) 586- 7538 or 828-586-4055 at ext. 6055.