Back to school – but don’t forget to vote

I wrote this for the TC Daily Planet – but I’m reposting here with a special request: if your son or daughter, nephew or niece, grandson or granddaughter is heading back to college in the fall, take a minute to remind them to get an absentee ballot and vote.

If you’re a Minnesota student heading off to college, you may need an absentee ballot. Before you head back to campus, you should be sure you are registered, and ask for an absentee ballot to be sent to you. (Before you leave for campus, you can also vote in the primary election on August 14.)

As a college student, you can register and vote either from your parent’s home address or your school address, depending on what you consider your official residence. For example, if you are a St. Paul resident attending UW-Madison, you can choose either city as your home address. BUT — you can only choose one place, and you need to check the laws of the state where you plan to vote.

If you are a Minnesota resident who will be away from home on election day, you can vote by absentee ballot. That’s true whether you are a Minneapolis resident going to the University of Minnesota-Duluth or a Richfield resident heading off to UCLA. Here’s the two-step process for Minnesotans.

FIRST — register to vote. In Minnesota, you may register at least 21 days before Election Day or on Election Day at your polling place. If you registered and voted within the past four years, you should still be registered.

Your registration remains current until you move, change your name, or do not vote for four consecutive years. The Secretary of State’s office has an online Voter Registration Lookup to find out if you’re already registered to vote at your current address.

If you are not registered, register now, before you go back to school.

SECOND — follow these easy instructions from the Secretary of State to vote by absentee ballot:

With absentee voting, you can vote either in person before Election Day at a location designated by your county auditor or by mail. You must submit a written application to your county auditor or city clerk. Use the Election Official Directory to find contact information.

Vote in person starting 46 days prior to election day during normal office hours, or from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. the Saturday before the election, or until 5:00 p.m. the Monday before the election.

To vote by mail, submit the Absentee Ballot Application to your county auditor. The ballot will then be mailed directly to you.

Even if you voted by absentee ballot last year, you need to apply again for this year’s election. Make that plural — elections. We have two elections in 2012. The primary election is August 14 and the general election is November 6.

You can cast your absentee ballot in advance (but no more than 46 days in advance) or apply in person for an absentee ballot at the county election office.

  • Ramsey County Elections, 90 West Plato Boulevard, Suite 160, St Paul, MN 55107
  • Hennepin County Elections, PSL 012 Government Center. 300 S 6th St, Minneapolis, MN 55487-0012
  • If you’re outside Hennepin and Ramsey county, look up your county election office here.

Want to know who’s on the ballot?

That’s as easy as one, two, three.

One — go to http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/ and enter your zip code. BE SURE YOU ARE NOT USING GOOGLE CHROME. The site doesn’t work with that browser, so just switch to Safari.

Two — The next page will ask for your address. Enter that.

Three — The next page tells you your polling place, precinct code, and other voting info, and then has a link to “Click here for Sample Ballot.” Click it, and you’ll get the sample ballot for the August 14 primary election. After the primary election results are in, the sample ballot will be updated for the November election. The primary election votes determine who will be on the ballot for the November 6 general election. That’s why you can’t get a general election sample ballot until after the August 14 primary election is complete.

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