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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘Where I want my vote to count’: Out-of-state student shares challenges on voting

Shelby DuVall
Sandy Wilson, Kayla Vix and Carole Neal from the League of Women Voters handed out QR codes with voter registration information on Sept. 19.

With election season coming up in November, organizations, candidates, and political parties are urging people to get registered and vote. For out-of-state students at Wichita State and universities around the country, this goal might be a little more complex.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20% of Wichita State’s undergraduate population were out-of-state students as of fall of 2022. For these students, where and how to vote can be a complicated decision. 

MacKenzie Kessler, a graphic design major from Oklahoma, said this can deter them from voting.

“I know quite a few out-of-state students that don’t vote at all, just because it’s too much of a hassle to request an absentee (ballot),” she said. “They don’t know if it’s gonna make it to them. They don’t know how to request an absentee ballot.”

For the first election that occurred while Kessler was away at school, she said she drove home and voted. 

“It’s a three-hour drive just to go vote and maybe see my dogs and my parents,” she said. 

Due to the lack of convenience, she switched to mailing in an absentee ballot instead in subsequent elections.

Absentee ballots are available in every state for people who aren’t able to vote in-person on Election Day for reasons such as disabilities, illness, lack of transportation or being out of the state temporarily. 

While the restrictions and deadlines that regulate requesting and turning in an absentee ballot vary by state, most follow a similar procedure. According to Ballotpedia, some states automatically send all eligible voters a mail-in ballot, while in others, an absentee ballot must be requested either online or by visiting or contacting your local election board. 

Some applications require a reason for requesting an absentee ballot, such as attending an out-of-state university, while other states do not. Additionally, each state has deadlines for requesting and submitting an absentee ballot. Ballots can then be mailed in or turned in to the election office in person. 

Kessler said she has received and mailed in an absentee ballot for two elections without incident. But on another occasion, her ballot didn’t arrive before Election Day.

“It got there a week later than it should have, so I wasn’t able to vote,” she said. 

Still, Kessler voted by an absentee ballot in the following elections because she said voting matters to her and her family.

“It’s really important to me to vote for things involving public education because I still have brothers and sisters in public education in Oklahoma,” she said. “I know I can’t vote in more than one place, so I have to choose. I have to choose where I want my vote to count, and I don’t plan on staying in Wichita past college.”

Changing state residency

While Kessler decided to keep voting in Oklahoma, she, like any out-of-state student with a permanent Kansas address, can register to vote in Kansas instead of their home state. 

Nancy Brown is the co-president of the League of Women Voters of the Wichita Metro, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on registering voters and advocating for voting rights. Brown said students should consider several factors when deciding where to register.

“Look at how invested you are in your community back home versus how invested you are or are willing to become in Wichita,” she said. “If you’re only going to school at Wichita State so you can take what you know back home, then you’re more invested back there, and it would make better sense to register in your home state.

Brown said that if you’re not sure what happens after graduation, register to vote in Kansas.

“Particularly for local elections, it will have an impact on your everyday lives,” she said.

Election Day will be on Tuesday, Nov. 7. To check your voter registration status, visit naas.org.

To update your voter registration to reflect the state you reside in, visit vote.gov.

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About the Contributors
Ainsley Smyth
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. Smyth is a sophomore communications major with an emphasis in journalism and media productions. Her dream job is to travel back in time 30 years and then be a reporter for Rolling Stone. Smyth uses she/her pronouns.
Shelby DuVall
Shelby DuVall, Reporter
Shelby DuVall is a sophomore reporter, designer and photographer majoring in graphic design. This is her first year on the Sunflower staff, and at WSU. She's from Altamont, Kansas, and enjoys rollerskating and gaming. DuVall's pronouns are she/her.

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