By Alexa Cheaney
With an upcoming general election less than a month away on Nov. 7, now is the time to make a plan to vote. There are three important elements of a voting plan: knowing what you’re voting for, where you’re voting and how you’re voting. But of course, the first step is to get registered.
There are a couple different ways one could go about voter registration.
If you prefer to go in person, you can register to vote at your local town/city hall.
“Let’s say a student lives in the city of Grand Rapids,” said Kent County Elections Director Mike Sullivan. “They could appear at the city clerk’s office within the city of Grand Rapids building on Monroe downtown.”
There is also the option of online voter registration. Through the Secretary of State website, you can fill out this form and get registered from the comfort of your own home.
Finally, there is the option to mail in this printable application to your local or city clerk’s office.
Sullivan also pointed to third party group, Rock the Vote, as a resource, and mentioned that you can make an appointment to register to vote at the Secretary of State office.
All methods require either a driver’s license number, or the last four digits of your social security number in addition to being a Michigan resident. A person also has to be at least 17.5 years old (though you must be 18 at the time of an election to vote), and not currently serving a prison/jail sentence.
Knowing what you will be voting for is arguably the most important part of any voter’s plan. These nominations can vary from city to city so it’s important to know what’s local to you.
To help get educated, the Michigan Voter Information Center (MVIC) provides sample ballots for each election that have all of the candidates, proposals and races listed.
In Kent county, this upcoming election is smaller and focused on a public school bond proposal.
“I just want to encourage voters to pay attention to those (smaller) elections as well, just remember that the candidates we see in the November elections from the parties are nominated during the primary contests… you should make your voice heard during those primary elections as well,” said Sullivan. “We want our elections to be representative of as many voters within an area as possible.”
When you register to vote, you will be assigned a precinct. This will be the only place you are able to physically vote. If you are unaware of your precinct you can check here.
If you are unable to make it on election day, another option is early voting.
In the city of Grand Rapids there are three potential locations you could visit. To see when early voting is accessible to you, view this calendar.
For students not originally from Grand Rapids, you can either plan a trip home, cast an absentee ballot or update your voter information.
Sullivan encourages out-of-county students to come up with a plan in advance.
“If you’re voting back at home think about ‘am I going to be at home to see my parents during early voting or on election day?’ If not, you should probably be requesting an absentee ballot,” Sullivan said.
Absentee ballots can be turned in via mail, at your local clerk’s office, or at a designated drop box. There is a dropbox located on campus off Fountain Street on the side of the parking garage.
To request an absentee ballot, fill out this form.
For more information to help get registered, get educated, and get your voice heard, view the MVIC.