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Out-of-state students struggle to cast ballots this election

Traci Anderson, a student coordinator with the Dumke Center for Civic engagement, helps students register to vote here in Utah in front of the Bassis Center for Student Learning.

Traci Anderson, a student coordinator with the Dumke Center for Civic Engagement, helps students register to vote here in Utah in front of the Bassis Center for Student Learning. “I have about 20 papers here,” Anderson said. “Most of the kids seem to be from out-of-state and living on campus.” Photo by McCall Mash.

Zoë Zeerip, a junior environmental studies major from Sparta, Michigan, said she plans to vote for Clinton in her first presidential election—but said it’s difficult to access a ballot from another state.

Zeerip isn’t alone. According to Westminster College’s Office of Admissions, 48 percent of students attending the college come from another state—meaning they may also experience difficulties voting this year.

“Access to the ballot is the hardest thing,” Zeerip said. “I had to think three months before the election. I was ahead of the game that much because I knew it was a pain in the butt.”

Although Zeerip said she requested a mail-in absentee ballot months ago, she still hasn’t received it. She said she called her local precinct to find out why, and they told her they can’t send it because they don’t have the ballots yet. Zeerip said this makes her nervous because it will take a few weeks for the ballot to reach her and more time for her to send it back.

Ryan LaRe is a junior political science major who took the semester off to work with the Utah State Democratic Party on the fourth congressional race. LaRe offered their personal opinions about the best ways to vote this election.

According to LaRe and Zeerip, out-of-state students have three options for voting in the election, depending on what state they hold residency in: they can request an absentee ballot, their parents can cast their vote with a vote by mail ballot or they can change their voting registration state to Utah without changing their residency.

An absentee ballot is similar to a vote by mail ballot—specific differences depend on the state. Both ballots are mailed before the election to the voter, but an absentee ballot is only for those who can’t make it to the election poll.

Both LaRe and Zeerip said they think the easiest way to vote is to register to vote in Utah. Registering to vote in Utah doesn’t change the voter’s residency state and the voter has easier access to the ballot.

“The Supreme Court has decided that home is wherever [students] decide,” LaRe said. “That can be wherever college is or wherever they lived before college. It’s basically up to the student to decide where they want to vote.”

By registering to vote in Utah, voters also don’t risk their vote getting lost or not counted—a common problem, according to Zeerip.

However, Zeerip said she decided against registering in Utah because she said she believes her vote will count more in Michigan than in Utah.

“Votes count differently,” she said. “I don’t want to register to vote in Utah because my vote has more impact in Michigan because we are a swing state.”

A swing state, like Michigan, is a state where both the republican and democratic parties hold nearly the same amount of support, according to Zeerip. This means each individual vote is more important in determining the outcome than in a state like Utah, where the vote historically leans republican.

Kyle Ottmann is a senior computer science major from Nevada—a state historically known to be a swing state. Ottmann said he decided to switch his residency from Nevada to Utah and had to change where he was registered to vote. Despite knowing his vote may not count in Utah, Ottmann said he doesn’t mind because he thinks it will be easier to vote this year.

“I think it’s easier to vote in the state you live in,” Ottmann said. “This year I have the option to vote in person or Utah has mail-in ballots, which I think is easiest.”

Zeerip said she suggested students look at to find more information about where their votes will count most.

“There is a website [] that tells you where you should voteshould you vote where you go to college or in your home stateand I think that’s a good way to start,” Zeerip said.

To register to vote in Utah, visit for online registration and a list of in-person registration locations.

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McCall is a senior communication major and public health minor who is a lover of new food, the fine arts and storytelling. When she’s not busy editing, you can find the Salt Lake native playing outside, hopping on a plane or enjoying a cup of tea. McCall began her career as a reporter covering education for The Sugar House Journal, she also spent a semester pursuing her passion for geology as a ghostwriter and copy editor with the Utah Geological Survey and experimented as a broadcast news intern with ABC4 Utah. She is eager to spend her final year at Westminster as The Forum’s managing editor.

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