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Why Should I Sign Up For an Absentee Ballot?

The 1 Thing Every Busy, Politically Minded Person Should Do ASAP

During the 2012 presidential election, I was a college student juggling a minimum-wage job, two internships, and a 20-unit academic load. I would leave my house around 4:30 a.m. (to work at a coffee shop) and arrive home past 8 p.m. with only 15-minute breaks between each obligation. I didn't have a car, which made it impossible to get anywhere in town quickly. It was my first major election as a legal voter, and I was heartbroken; how would I possibly find the time to visit my local polling place and cast my vote? Would it be better to skip my mandatory literature workshop, or ditch my viticulture and enology lab?

But luckily for me, my dad — a pilot who is often busy flying internationally on Voting Day — informed me about California's vote-by-mail system in time for me to register. I was able to exercise my right as an American without losing class points . . . or getting into a bicycle accident as I rushed to vote at the local library after work.

This year, I cast my primary election vote before many of my peers even registered. I'm a huge advocate of voting by mail, and since I live in a state that allows voters to register for an absentee ballot without stating a reason, I regularly encourage my friends to explore their options as well.

Every US state offers some form of absentee voting, but restrictions per territory vary. Some states have requirements, like overseas military service, for absentee voter registration, but 27 of them (and Washington DC) offer "no-excuse absentee voting." This allows any voter to opt for an absentee ballot without question. See if your state is on the list here, especially if you'll have to get time off of work to vote.

There are plenty of other perks that come with voting by mail besides freeing up your time — here are some that might convince you to try it:

  • You won't have to stand in line at some random elementary school or listen to other people in line complain about candidates.
  • It gets voting out of the way early, so you can throw your hands up and say "I already voted!" when others try to lecture you about politics.
  • Getting sick or having an emergency meeting pop up at work won't worry you, since you'll have already cast your vote by Voting Day.
  • If you're chronically late or deal with anxiety about leaving the house, it won't keep you from voting.
  • Your taxes already covered the postage!
  • It doesn't have to be a permanent decision — you can return your ballot in person if circumstances change, and you're free to switch back to traditional voter registration for future elections.

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