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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

How, why and where to vote in the primary election

Jump over the roadblocks to student voting this upcoming primary season.
Sofia El-Shammaa
Graphic depicting the percentage of college students who did not vote in the 2020 election, and the common reasonings behind the lack of participation (Hustler Multimedia/Sofia El-Shammaa)

Vanderbilt students are at an age where the result of presidential elections holds weight in our individual lives. Years prior, many students may have remained ignorant of the process, as our adolescence was structured by those taking care of us. Whether we came from political backgrounds or households that lacked such political participation, we were left without a direct say in any policy decisions that we may have been passionate about. 

As many students now approach the first election season of being over 18, it is crucial to realize the importance of voting and get out to the polls for the Tennessee presidential preference primary on March 5. The loans we have, the healthcare we utilize and the jobs we acquire are now all directly impacted by these elections. With this being said, it is easy to wonder why the percentage of college students who did not participate in the 2020 election was a striking 34%. There is not one answer to this question but many: lack of transportation, conflicts with work or class, lack of education and lack of registration are the most relevant. Here’s how, why and where to vote as a Vanderbilt student to ensure the 34% gets even narrower this election season! 

Transportation should be no issue for students as there are a variety of election locations available that are less than a 20-minute walk away. For students living on Commons, the Murrell School (1450 14th Ave. S) is a 13-minute walk away, whereas for those students living on main campus, the Eakin School (2500 Fairfax Ave.) is an 18-minute walk away. If prior obligations conflict with voting on election day, the Green Hills Library (3701 Benham Ave.) and the Metro Office building (800 President Ronald Reagan Way) are both a 10-15 minute drive away and offer early voting opportunities. The last important location to note is the Vandy Post Office, an easy on-campus site to drop off absentee ballots if you plan to vote for your home state. 

Especially in the 21st century, lack of education is no excuse to refrain from the voting process. I spoke with junior Celeste Dorantes, the president of Vandy Votes, about how students can be well-informed.

“The best way for students to educate themselves on the ballot is to utilize the resources that are available such as TurboVote, Vote411, and more,” Dorantes said. “These are some of the websites that will easily allow students to quickly sign up to receive election reminders and view upcoming elections in their homes and the respective candidates. Along with federal elections, it also helps to keep up with local and state elections because these officials implement the most visible day-to-day policy in our cities and states.” 

A quick internet search of these platforms can give a student a lot of information about the candidates and their beliefs, both locally and federally, ensuring that they get accurate yet concise information. Another great source of information that can prepare students to vote are courses offered at Vanderbilt. In particular PSCI 1150 is only offered during presidential election years, and it offers an examination of the presidential and congressional elections, recruitment of candidates, nomination processes, financing campaigns, media coverage, polling, predictive models and implications of results. I also recommend PSCI 2243 which is composed of theories of representation and democratic accountability, electoral strategies and tactics, including political polling and analysis. 

Registration is the last student voting blockade to tackle. To clarify, students can register to vote in either their home state or Tennessee and must make the decision themselves where their vote is most useful. If one wants to vote for their home state, they must fill out an absentee request form online, usually on the Secretary of State website, and follow the steps particular to their home state. For those voting in Tennessee, students can register up to 30 days before the election and must switch their residency and fill out the Tennessee registration form either online or with a physical copy. This all may appear complex, but the Vandy Votes organization on campus has made many efforts to simplify the process. 

“During election season, you can find us tabling outside of Rand Wall and in Commons to get students registered to vote, provide QR codes to request absentee ballots, view election deadlines and answer questions students may have in the registration and voting process,” Dorantes said. 

Now, why should we vote? Easy. We have the power to shape these elections, especially if they concern issues we are passionate about. Students are a key constituency, and not only can we make a difference in the presidential elections, but participating in our state and local elections is critical too. What we get out of the political process is determined by the effort we put in, so make sure to get out there this upcoming election season!

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About the Contributor
Sofia El-Shammaa
Sofia El-Shammaa, Staff Writer and Photographer, Data and Graphics Staffer
Sofia El-Shammaa (‘27) is majoring in political science and communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. When they’re not writing or making graphics, you can find them with their cat, Mochi, watching bad movies or reading good books. You can reach them at [email protected].
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George Albu
4 months ago

Great article! 🙂

This is the first year I’ll be able to legally vote and this was very informative!