By lwilliamsFor many college freshmen, this year will be your first opportunity to exercise your right to vote as an American citizen. And, while this upcoming election may not decide our next president, that doesn’t mean your vote isn’t just as important! It’s your chance to voice an opinion, make a change, and show politicians that students are listening. So, before you head to the election polls and proudly don the “I voted” sticker around campus, be sure to check out these voting resources to help prevent you from leaving any hanging chads. So, you’ve registered for classes…but have you registered to vote? In order to cast a vote in any election, you first need to be a registered voter. Most states require voters to be registered 30 days prior to Election Day, which means if you haven’t done so already, you may have missed the cut off for this upcoming November 4 election. Be sure to check, though, as each state is different. And, if you find that it’s too late to register for this upcoming election, don’t let that stop you! There will be plenty of upcoming opportunities to voice your vote, so don’t miss out by not registering! As a college student, “home” is where the heart is. Did you know that college students have a constitutional right to register and vote wherever they consider home? So, whether it’s your parents’ house or your new dorm room, “home is where the heart is” as far as voting is concerned. If you feel strongly about issues back in your hometown, living in a new city or state as a student doesn’t stop your right to vote for change in your old neighborhood. If you want to see change for the younger generation in your new college home, then you have the right to vote accordingly. Wherever you decide to register, be sure to check the rules for each state before voting. You don’t have to be present to vote. If you choose to vote as a citizen of your hometown and now live hundreds of miles away (or, you know that there’s no way you’ll make it to the polls with your busy schedule), then you’ll want to look into early voting or an absentee ballot. Some states offer in-person early voting, helping cut some of the wait time at polls. Absentee ballots are great if you’re voting out of state or overseas. Each state’s policy differs, but most allow you to request an absentee ballot either online, in person, or by mail. Know where to go! If you decide to vote in person on Election Day, be sure you know where to go! Polling places are typically located close to your house, and they can be at a business, a community center, or a variety of other places. Check with your state and county to see where you need to report for voting. Be informed. You might have seen political candidates’ signs around town, or even watched a few commercials on TV, but do you really know who is running for office? Do you even know what office they’re running for? Don’t rely on what the media alone tells you. Do your research and be an educated voter. What’s important to you? What do you want to see changed? You may also notice that your voting ballot has more than names of people running for various political offices. Depending on where you live, you may also vote on initiated and/or legislatively-referred constitutional amendments. You can look up a sample ballot for your state and/or county before Election Day to help you make a more informed decision. You could be the deciding vote. Not only are millennials one of the most diverse groups of voters, but this group also makes up 25 percent of the American population. You wouldn’t necessarily know this, though, looking at the voter turnout, since less than half of those ages 18 to 29 actually vote. What’s amazing, though, is the real potential to make a difference. College students can be the deciding factor in an election – if they choose to show up at the voting polls, that is. So, if you’re thinking “my vote doesn’t matter” – you’re wrong (so, so wrong!).