Absentee voting complicates election year for College students

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HABLO TYLER // THE FLAT HAT

For many, if not all of us, 2020 has been a chaotic year that has, at the very least, uprooted our daily habits, and at worst, driven our lives into material and philosophical uncertainty. It constantly feels like we are hanging on until the next crazy, almost unfathomable event strings us along into the next month. For me, the upcoming November election feels like another catastrophe just lying in wait. Only this time, we know it’s coming.

So much has happened in 2020 I find it hard to even remember, let alone emotionally prepare for, the presidential election our country has been strongly anticipating for the last four years. It’s like riding in a car on a foggy night and peering through the haze thinking you’re finally almost home, only to see a cliff.

Not only is the November election momentous for our entire country, but at the personal level, it is the first election in which I am eligible to vote. And if that is not complicated and nerve-wracking enough, I am also an out-of-state student, meaning I have the choice of whether to vote in Virginia or my home state of Indiana.

In a normal election, more or less meaning the entire state of our country and national identity were not at stake, my decision would be straightforward: I would vote in Indiana, adding to the ever-growing blue population in a red sea, keeping in mind 2008 when Indiana’s electoral college votes went to Obama. My district, especially, is well on its way to becoming a battleground district. However, Virginia is an infamous battleground state and Williamsburg more specifically is a purple mixture of left-leaning students and right-leaning retirees. So, the question for me comes down to which purple city needs my vote the most.

Current events also bring into questions the factor of absentee voting. When considering the current atmosphere around the USPS, I am inclined to vote here in Williamsburg where I can vote in person, avoiding any uncertainty about my vote being counted. However, when considering the current atmosphere around coronavirus on college campuses, I come to an equally weary conundrum: how likely is it that the College of William and Mary makes it to November with classes remaining in-person? What if I choose to vote in Williamsburg only for students to be sent home and I am forced back into voting absentee? When looking at other universities across the country like the University of Alabama and University of Notre Dame, the prospect of an in-person semester looks bleak but unable to fully predict. Sometimes it feels like all these factors coalesce into a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors too intricate and unpredictable rendering any attempted navigation futile.

Being an international relations major and a self-proclaimed political nerd, I pride myself in being an educated voter; I know who is on the ballot and what their platforms are, and I consider a candidate based on qualifications rather than party loyalty.

Though, in terms of the presidential election, very little thought will go into who I vote for. My vote has been decided since I was a sophomore in high school, witnessing the absolute chaos of 2016.

On a serious note, I consider it a part of my civic duty to be educated on the topics I vote on and raise my voice about. I care deeply about my country and its future and hope that this regard permeates through my vote, no matter where I choose to cast it.

Email Grace Engelhart at
gmengelhart@email.wm.edu.