Here's What To Know If You're Voting While Away At College

by Daffany Chan
Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The 2020 general election is just around the corner, and many people across the country are opting to vote absentee due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If you're a college student living away from home, navigating the voter registration process can get tricky, and you may find yourself wondering if you can have your ballot sent to your dorm. Here are the details on voting if you're off at college this election season.

According to, the choice is yours whether or not you want to register in your home state or in the state where you go to school. But you can’t register to vote in both states at the same time. Once you decide where you want to register, you can request an absentee ballot. There will be different rules for how to do this based on where you register because absentee ballot regulations vary by state. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, there are three different types of absentee voting: excuse-required absentee voting, no-excuse required absentee voting, and vote by mail.

If you decide to register in your home state — and go to school in a different state — you'll need to request an absentee ballot to be delivered to your dorm address. You'll be eligible to get your ballot mailed to you no matter which state you live in, since students living outside of the county they’re registered in qualify for an excuse-required absentee ballot. And for no excuse-required absentee ballots, you can simply provide the address you’d like your ballot sent to.

Jorge Villalba/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images

Be sure to check the registration deadline for whichever state you want to vote in, as some may have passed already. But you can also check if you live in a state where you can register all the way up until Election Day.

If you’d rather have your vote counted for the state you go to school in, you can register to vote using your dorm address (or your apartment address if you live off-campus). If you register to vote in the state you go to school in, you'll need to cast your ballot in person on Election Day if you live in an excuse-required absentee voting state, unless you have a valid excuse such as an illness. If you go to school in a state that has no-excuse required absentee voting or all-mail voting for the election, and you’re registered in that state, then you can request to have your ballot sent to your dorm.

For the 2020 election, there are nine states and Washington, D.C. implementing mail-in only voting, which means a ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter in the state, even if they don’t request one. You can find out which address your ballot will be sent to by checking with your local election office either online, over the phone, or in person. You can use the election office finder to find more information about your local branch.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It's important to note that in most cases, where you register to vote should not affect your in-state or out-of-state tuition status, since it's determined by various factors, including what state your driver's license is registered in, state income tax filings, and more. According to Best Colleges, there's a slight chance that where you register to vote could affect your status for certain state and private scholarships and grants, so you'll want to check with your school's financial aid office for more information before you make your decision.

Finally, make sure to request and send in your absentee ballot as soon as possible, the U.S. Post Office (USPS) recommends allowing 15 days time within which to receive and mail your ballot, so you should request one no later than Tuesday, Oct. 20 (and earlier if you can!). And you should mail back or drop off your completed ballot ASAP. You can find your state's deadline here.

Your voice matters. So does your vote. Make sure both are heard and counted in the 2020 election by registering to vote right now.