Should I register and vote in my college community?

The right to vote is fundamental in a democratic society. The following information will help make it easy for you to exercise this right.

To be eligible to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen who will be at least 18 years old on Election Day, and you must also have registered to vote.

If you are in college, the following information will help you to decide whether to vote in your prior district/state or at your college address. There are many good reasons for registering and voting at either residence, but keep in mind, in most cases the final choice is really yours.

Am I really a resident of my college community?

Yes. Students live in their college towns anywhere from nine to twelve months of the year, often for four years. This means that students are no more transient than the average American family, which typically moves once every four years. Moreover, the U.S. Census Bureau considers students to be residents of their college community. Federal funds are distributed to municipalities based on figures that include the student population.

Students contribute to the college community in many valuable ways. They work as volunteers in a host of civic organizations, help to create jobs in the community, bolster the local economy, and pay sales and gasoline taxes.

Should I register and vote in my college community?

You do have a vested interest in the local issues of your college community. Issues such as off-campus housing and zoning restrictions, the environment, taxes, transportation and personal safety all affect your quality of life. Voting in your college community is more convenient and relieves you of the need to apply for and return an absentee ballot.

Registering and voting at college can give you the opportunity to become involved with, and informed about, the local issues in your college town or city. Becoming involved in the issues, and learning about local politics, are some of the ways in which you can begin to build a relationship with other residents of the community. If you consider the college community your primary residence, you should vote in the community.

It is also possible that you are still subject to taxes and student loan/scholarship regulations at your prior address. If you have a scholarship funded by the state, or a privately funded scholarship designated for a local student, be sure to check the terms of your scholarship before registering in your local college community. You could lose your eligibility.

I am currently registered at my prior address. Am I allowed to reregister in my college community instead of voting by absentee ballot?

In Massachusetts, you have the right to vote in your college community, but you cannot be registered to vote in both locations.

Should I register at my prior address?

If you don’t consider your college community your primary residence and/or you have a special interest in the local issues at your old address, you have a good reason for voting there. Also, the people and issues you vote for will have a more lasting impact on you if you intend to return to that location to live.

It is also possible that you are still subject to taxes and student loan/scholarship regulations at your prior address. If you have a scholarship funded by the state, or a privately funded scholarship designated for a local student, be sure to check the terms of your scholarship before registering in your local college community. You could lose your eligibility.

Remember, if you want to vote at your prior residence, you must be registered at that address and be aware of absentee ballot regulations and procedures.

How do I know how, when and where to register and vote?

In Massachusetts, your college must provide registration opportunities where you register for class. Also, mail-in registration forms may be found in public places, such as libraries, and you may register to vote at the office of the city/town clerk in your college community (You must vote in the community where you are registered).

To request a voter registration form, e-mail the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts or the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

In Massachusetts, you may not use a downloaded or copied voter registration form. Go to www.fec.gov for a list of states that accept downloaded voter registration forms.