by Marcus Koontz
Registering to vote may seem like an easy task, but throw in hundreds of students from all over the country and things get more confusing.
One of the most baffling aspects for college students registering to vote is the question of “which address to use and if they should register where they are going to school,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed, the top elections official in Washington. There are two address spaces on the Washington State voter registration form (see form to right). The first is the Washington Resident Address and the second is the Mailing Address. If a student registers their Washington Resident Address as their parents’, they will vote in their parents’ district. If they put their school address as their Washington Resident Address they will vote in their college’s district. Districts are areas that group people together by issues affecting them. Some examples of different districts that affect people are city, county, and school. Walla Walla County Auditor Karen Martin said, “[People] are able to vote on the issues that affect [their] district”.
Things are even more confusing when a student is from out of state. Should that student vote in their home state or the state their college is in? Secretary Reed said, “Students should register and vote in the area they are most connected. Voting allows you to really become involved in the community.” A student’s choice about where to register should depend on where they want to have a say. Reed added, “It is ultimately the student’s choice.” However, Martin notes, “We cannot register [students to vote] for another state. They need to contact [that] state … to find [that] information.” She also suggested that students be careful of the effects of registering in Washington because it will make them residents of Washington State. “If they have a car here that is registered in another state they may have to change it to Washington,” she said. “It might remove the out of state exemption.”
Another question that causes confusion is whether or not a student should affiliate with a party. “In Washington State, individuals are not asked to declare a party affiliation,” Secretary Reed said. “However, affiliating with a party is a good way for students to get involved in their local, state, and national elections.” Washington State lets voters pick from three different ballots on which to vote: Democrat, Republican, or non-partisan. “Remember that the primary is an opportunity for the two major parties to select the candidates that will appear in the general election,” said Sam Reed.
Where can a student register? This year, first-years can be registered by their Student Academic Advisers in a program set up by Jeff Degroot. Jeff participates in the College Civics Commission, a program sponsored by the Secretary of Washington State that tries to encourage young people to vote. For students who aren’t first-years, registration can be completed at the Walla Walla County Auditor’s office at 315 W. Main. Voter registration forms can also be printed from the Secretary of State’s website (www.secstate.wa.gov) and mailed in.
Though the deadline to register to vote in the primary elections was Sep. 1, students can still register to vote in the general election that happens on Nov. 7. Those already registered to vote in Washington can mail in a voter registration or address correction form if it is postmarked by Oct. 6. Students that are not registered in Washington can register to vote in person at the Auditors Office until Oct. 23. “If anyone has any questions they can … call our office,” said Martin.