EDITOR COLUMN: Are you ready to vote?

Midterm elections may seem unimportant because they don’t quite choose the face of the country, however, they allow us to alter the course of the current president if we’re unhappy. Unfortunatley, college students typically waste this opportunity.

In 2018, the Census Bureau reported that approximately 24 million 18-to-24-year-olds were eligible to vote, but fewer than four million actually voted. While I won’t discount this was likely because students were on campus for their regular Tuesday classes, which kept them from traveling to their assigned voting location, now is the time to start planning for Election Day on Nov. 8.

Last Thursday marked 75 days until the midterm election. This means registered voters can now apply online for an absentee ballot. This is excellent news for college students. In lieu of having to drive back to your home precinct, your local clerk will mail your ballot anywhere in the country so that you have the opportunity to vote.

You’ll get your ballot, instructions and secrecy sleeved mailed to you as early as 45 days before the election so that you may vote in the comfort of your dorm on your own time. Then, you simply pack up your ballot and mail it back home. Your clerk will check it in and ensure it’s counted on election day.

The request process takes less than five minutes on the Secretary of State’s website, and there is a handy option that allows you to be placed on the permanent absentee voter role, so you’ll automatically be sent the application for an absentee ballot for every election going forward. Depending on who you are, this can be extremely important. For example, if you’re an incoming freshman this fall, you’ll be here during a midterm and presidential election, so prepare now to carry out your civic duty.

If you’re freshly 18, will be by Nov. 8 or you maybe just didn’t have any interest in voting before, now is the perfect time to get registered and read up on the candidates in your voting pool. Anyone eligible can register online as late as 15 days before the election by mail, as long as their registration is postmarked 15 days before the election or, due to a measure passed in 2018, in-person at their clerk’s office until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

By my calculation, only 16% of the eligible 18-to-24-year-old population voted in the last midterm election. To put it bluntly, that’s unacceptable and cannot happen again. We are about to step into the world and be the next generation of decision-makers, so why can’t we make our voices heard in this capacity? We clearly have the numbers—24 million eligible voters are nothing to scoff at—but that doesn’t matter if we don’t show up.

It’s time to make a plan. Whether you request your ballot by mail, vote early in-person at your clerk’s office between Sept. 29 and Nov. 7 or head home on Election Day, the time to start thinking about this is now. No matter who you’re voting for—that doesn’t matter—just get out and make sure your voice is heard.