Hampton U. students struggle with voting options

By Michael Turner                

A Google search of the word “absentee,” yields 4,630,000 results. The first item is a Web site entitled VoteForChange.com, an attractive, interactive Web page dedicated to registering voters to cast absentee ballots in favor of Barack Obama.


Floating atop a sea of other sites with countless pages of information, divided into clauses and sub-clauses of rules and regulations is this one — simple, straightforward, and broadcast amid an appealing background of light and dark blue.  


If either of the Democratic or Republican parties is doing something right, it’s trying to resell the process of absentee voting as easy and convenient to this years host of potential voters.


Colleges across the country are composed of student bodies from all corners of the continent and globe. Those who are eligible to vote will have to make the same decision that students at Hampton University are making this month — whether they will vote absentee, return to their home states to vote, or re-register in Virginia.


With memories of the disputed 2000 Florida voting results resurfacing in some people’s minds, it is no surprise that in what may be the first and most important election for these voters, Hamptonians are already wary of the process.


Janelle Martin, a junior business management major from Maryland, represents one of a large population of students at the school from the Prince George’s County, Md. She applied for an absentee ballot online through the Maryland State Board of Elections Web site early last week after weighing her options.



“The process wasn’t hard once I read through the instructions,” she said. “My only concern is my ballot somehow getting lost in the mail.”                                                                                           


 Martin, however, claimed she was the only one among her close friends who had completed an absentee ballot application. Many, she said, either promised her they would but hadn’t yet done so, or simply distrusted the process.

The overwhelming majority of students do, however, plan to vote, according to Justin Manning, a senior political science major from New York and campus-wide coordinator for Students for Barack Obama. Manning has been urging probable absentee voters to re-register in the state. He carries Virginia voter registration forms with him at all times, and is surprised by the number of absentee voters he meets.


“A lot of students trust absentee ballots when they don’t realize that that’s the reason Bush is in office right now,” said Manning. “The Florida miscount had a lot to do with those votes. Students that I talk to don’t realize the considerable risk of leaving their privilege to vote entirely to the postal system.”


With the deadline nearing for absentee voter registration less than a month away in most states, students have little time to decide how to cast their vote. On Nov. 4, while many will be entering the polls in hopes of a brighter future as promised by either Obama or McCain.


Others will be placing their bets on the mailman.


The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.