By Mila K. Marshal

It’s election time, and many Black first-time voters are away from home for the first time during their first opportunity to cast their ballots. While the average age of the Black voter is 43, according to Pew Research Center, 25% of the eligible Black voter population is between 18-29.

As exciting as adulthood is, many of us may have overlooked reminding our students of the importance of voting and helping them prepare to vote no matter where they are. Every state’s voting laws are different. Students are also in different types of residency situations. One may find themselves away at school but still in their home state; others will find themselves voting in the state of their university.

Black out-of-state college students have a critical role as young and new voters. They are learning how to advocate for themselves, and they are in two places with different politics. 

Not only are we seeking to ensure their votes count for the state of their residency, but we wish to activate their civic engagement to support the local politics of their college towns and to engage college-town allies strategically.  Our distant support and gentle reminders about voter engagement, voter suppression, and getting out to vote are us doing our part to empower them to learn how to activate, lobby, and vote with their dollars.

As college is already stressful enough, here are some tips and resources to help your college student educate themselves on the voting process and help protect them from following along with O.P.P. unknowingly…other people’s politics. 

Get familiar with the residency laws

Every state is different. Google voter registry guidelines for the state you are interested in. For example, in Florida, if you wish to vote in an upcoming election, registration has to be completed 29 days before that election day, whereas in Mississippi is 30 days, for example. 

Learn about the candidates 

Follow along with local politics back at home through social media. Be diligent with 

Register to vote

Most colleges, upon registration for school, especially for freshmen, have opportunities for students to register to vote. Contact school officials, local chapters of the Urban League, NAACP, and or campus student government in the event they are hosting or engaging in voter registration. Follow advocacy and voting rights social media sites to stay informed about opportunities to register to vote throughout the year.

Absentee ballots 

Getting it done on time

Make sure you follow and adhere to all deadlines and requirements for voting, no matter where you are. Learn about the opportunities for you to vote on campus and make time to vote on time. Contact your school’s administration or college advisor for support if needed.

Absentee ballots

If you can’t make it to the poll for election day, you have the option of voting absentee by mail in every state as well as early voting. Make sure you understand the deadline to cast your vote.

Every vote counts! Reach out to the college students in your life and encourage them to be civically engaged. Talk to them about what is going on and reminisce on your voting experiences as a young adult. Our communities need every vote, and our emerging scholars’ voices matter.