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UB students and faculty discuss absentee voting

Students in New York must submit absentee ballot if voting out of home county

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The state of New York doesn’t make it “incredibly easy” for students to vote in primary and general elections, according to Jacob Neiheisel, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.

With the New York State Presidential Primary election coming up on April 19, both students and faculty are getting ready to head to the polls to vote. Some students, however, may be having a harder time doing so.

Students living away from home must go through a different process to vote than those who go to school near home. Absentee ballots are required to vote if one is away from his or her county the day of the election, according to the New York State Board of Elections.

According to the NYS Board of Elections’ website, there are more than 570,000 active voters in Erie County as of April 1.

Of those voters, 6,325 people have submitted absentee ballots for the 2016 New York State Presidential Primary, according to Mario Alaimo, Office Manager of the Erie County Board of Elections.

Bridget Murray, a senior anthropology and classics major, has been participating in absentee voting during her time at UB since the 2012 presidential election. She said the absentee process isn’t as simple as going somewhere to vote.

“The hardest part of the absentee balloting process is getting the actual ballot itself,” Murray said in an email. “The process requires that you be really proactive.”

According to Alaimo, any ballot submitted to the state by mail must be postmarked the day before the election and must be received by the board of elections a week later.

Absentee voting comes with a stigma that a vote may not count because the winner is usually projected the night voting is counted, Murray said.

“A lot of people don't think absentee voting is that important, or that their vote matters even less if it’s absentee, but sometimes in terms of close races or recounts it all comes down to the absentee ballots,” Murray said.

Although it has never been a factor in a presidential primary or election, absentee ballots have shifted elections numerous times in smaller-scale elections within Erie County, according to Alaimo.

“There was a margin of 145 votes after a recount of the 60th State Senate district election in 2010,” Alaimo said. “That was within the amount of absentee votes collected.”

But Alaimo said the state board of elections never hope for any election to come down to absentee ballots because the process is “tedious and has to be done numerous times.”

In a university setting, where ideas and beliefs are thrown around from all different directions, its often hard for students to decide which party they want to represent, according to Neiheisel.

If a student wishes to register or reregister for a different party than they had originally belonged to, there is added difficulty.

“The process of registering or reregistering for a political party takes months,” Neiheisel said. “Back when the deadline for registering passed, Donald Trump was still seen as a sideshow.”

The deadline to register was Oct. 8, 2015. During this time, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Trump were seen as front-runners for the GOP nominations, according to CNN/ORC polling.

Some UB clubs have been trying to get the word out about voting.

Reed Tighe, treasurer of UB College Republicans said the “Trump factor” is definitely influencing campus discussion. Tighe has spearheaded absentee ballot efforts within his club.

Tighe said some students are reluctant to vote this time around.

“There are some students that say, ‘Why bother [voting since Trump is] probably going to win anyway’ and there are others that say they don’t want him to win,” Tighe said.

This is one of the first election seasons inyears that New York will even be relevant to both the Republican and Democratic delegate counts, with both elections not projected to have a candidate until their respective conventions, according to Wall Street Journal.

Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both have ties to the New York area. Sanders is a former resident of Brooklyn and Clinton is a former New York senator.

On the GOP side, RealClearPolitics gives Trump a 32-point lead over John Kasich. Kasich and Ted Cruz are hoping for stronger showing in New York to boast their bid for a contested Republican convention.

Evan Schneider is a news desk editor and can be reached at evan.schneider@ubspectrum.com.


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