Hittin' the polls: The first-timer's guide to voting

With Election Day looming (Nov. 8, for those living under the Butler rock), the most important thing you do this fall break won’t be to catch up on homework or sleep or even Netflix (though The West Wing would be an appropriate choice).

It’s the first time many of us on campus will be voting, but it can be tricky navigating the ins and outs of elections. For anyone who hasn’t partaken in democracy before (or anyone who just really wasn’t paying attention the first time), here’s a step-by-step guide.


1.  Register to vote


(If I can’t convince you, maybe cool celebrities can.)

For the most part, this deadline has already passed. But all hope is not lost! There are many exceptions, which vary by state.

In Wyoming, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Montana, Minnesota, Maine, Idaho, D.C., Connecticut, and Colorado, you can register in person on election day. (That’s Nov. 8 for Democrats and Nov. 28 for Republicans). In most states, you’ll need some kind of I.D., like a driver’s license or social security number. Some will even let you use your school I.D.

If you can’t make the trek back home, some states are still receiving mail-in registration forms. New Hampshire’s deadline to receive your registration forms by mail is Oct. 29. Vermont will give you until Nov. 2. 
If you’re from North Dakota, scoot on by to part two; it’s the only state in the country where you don’t need to register at all.
2. In-person vs. absentee ballot

If you’re voting absentee, you can find the deadline for mailing your ballot by state here. (Most are very soon, so get going!)

If you’re voting in person, you can use this site to find your polling place. Polls in New York state are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and with the day off from class, your packed schedule is no excuse.

3. Get informed

We can’t help you decide whom to support (although you can read up on the cases made by CU Democrats and CU Republicans), but there are lots of resources available online to help you figure it out.

Andy Truelove, CC ‘17 and the Executive Director of CU College Republicans, suggests using your zip code to look up your representatives at every level; many websites will help you do this.

Shoshana Lauter (BC ‘18), the president of CU Democrats, recommends going to the city council or state senate websites to find a list of candidates. She also finds that Wikipedia is a simple yet helpful resource, listing incumbents, new candidates, and their respective positions.

4. Getting to the polls


Plenty of websites can help you find your polling place. Check the exact hours, but as long as you’re in line before it closes, you can vote. If you’ve registered to vote using your school address, it’s likely that your polling place is Riverside Church (121st and Riverside), Lenfest Hall (121st and Amsterdam), or Public School 36 (122nd and Amsterdam), but make sure to check.

Lauter emphasizes that it’s important to deal with any potential challenges, like language or accessibility barriers, beforehand. She also urges you to “know your rights” when you get to the polls; for instance, be aware of whether or not you’re obligated to show I.D.

Again, make sure to send in your absentee ballot by the deadline if you’re voting that way.


Whether you’re going for Trump, Hillary, or even this guy, it’s probably the most important thing you’ll do over break. If nothing else, do it for the sweet sticker swag.


Ooh, voting aesthetic.
Ishya Verma is a Barnard first-year and a trainee Spectrum staff writer. She’s going home to vote in a county that will supposedly help decide the election. Reach her at

All gifs via


Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.