As someone from New Jersey attending the College of William and Mary, I’ve come to realize that, although I love this school, there are a few drawbacks to being an out-of-state student aside from tuition. One such drawback is voter registration. This may not be limited to out-of-state students, as I have a few friends from Northern Virginia and other congressional districts in Virginia who have had similar experiences, but I find that this affects out-of-state students more so than their in-state counterparts.
Every fall, as soon as classes begin, voter registration season begins. People camp out on The Terrace, sit outside of The Caf and wander about the Sunken Garden continuously asking if you have registered to vote in Williamsburg. The answer for me is always, “No, sorry; I’m from out of state.”
Most of the time, that’s the end of the story, but occasionally, people will continue to push for me to register in Williamsburg. The typical reasons they give for doing so are that Williamsburg is a very competitive district and voting in Williamsburg means I will have more of an impact on my community here. While these are very valid reasons for registering to vote in Williamsburg, I would like to think that my reasons for not wanting to relocate my registration status are equally valid.
I will be the first to say that I completely support groups like NextGen who encourage students to register to vote. They do amazing work and I truly respect all that they have accomplished, but to the few students who pressure out-of-state students, or students from different districts in general, to register in Williamsburg, I want to provide my rationale for voting in my hometown.
Aside from attending college, I have grown up in the same town my entire life. I am very emotionally attached and have forged bonds within my community there that outweigh some of the bonds I have made over the past two years here. Both of my parents still live there, as well as my sister, who is too young to vote.
My vote in my hometown could directly impact my sister’s high school as well as the taxes that my parents and I pay. In addition to this emotional attachment, I come from a very competitive district back home in New Jersey.
If I truly felt that my vote at home did not matter, regardless of my political views, I would certainly register to vote in Williamsburg. However, both fortunately and unfortunately, that is not that case, and every vote in my district does make a difference.
It has been drilled into our heads by now that voting is essential to ensuring proper representation, but it should be up to each individual where they want to be represented.
Personally, I want to be represented back home rather than at school, which I think is OK. If someone wants to vote in the district in which they attend school, that is also OK. People should register to vote wherever they feel their voice will make the most impact, but even more importantly, people should vote wherever they want to make the most change, be it their home or college town.
Email Zoë Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org.