Editor-In-Chief Sagun Shrestha has a chat with the Youth and Government president, Ronak Tallur, about the importance of voter registration, especially in younger generations. Tallur outlines the process and mentions where to find more information.
Sagun: Hi, I’m Sagun Shrestha and this is the first episode of Coyo-tea for the school year. Today, I’m joined by…
Ronak: …Ronak Tallur…
Sagun: …our school’s Youth & Government president, as well as the state’s Youth & Government Lieutenant Governor, to talk about voter registration and why it’s so important, especially with this upcoming presidential election on Tuesday, November 3rd. With that, my first question, Ronak, would be, what exactly is voter registration?
Ronak: So voter registration is when you officially enroll to vote in our local, state, and federal elections. So the first step that you need to be taking if you want to vote, is registering to vote. Which is why doing so as soon as possible is the best thing to do.
Sagun: So who is eligible?
Ronak: Anyone who is at least 16 years old is eligible to [register to] vote. So speaking from a student perspective, that means that many sophomores, most juniors, and almost all seniors can register to vote. The important thing I’d say worth noting is that registering to vote doesn’t mean that you’re actually eligible to vote. You are allowed to register at 16 because registering to vote opens up many opportunities for you between the ages of 16 and 18, but you can only actually vote at the age of 18.
Sagun: But isn’t 16 too young, since you’re not actually able to vote? Why do you think it would be important to register at such a young age?
Ronak: Yeah, so technically you can register to vote at any time in your life after your 16th birthday. However, I would say that registration, registering early at the age of 16, provides some particularly important benefits. The biggest benefit is being able to work at the election polls, as an election judge. Registered voters who are at least 17 years old, at least in the state of Maryland, can serve as an election judge in this year’s election and are paid over 300 dollars or 25 SSL hours from their service. The important thing with the election judge is that the only people that can actually serve as election judges are people that are registered to vote. Working at the polls, especially during an election year like this one, where a lot of the original poll workers were older citizens, and as a result high-risk for contracting the Corona Virus, is more important than ever. So if you are at least 16 years old, you should register to vote right now, and then you’ll be able to work at the polls as well.
Sagun: That’s really cool. So why do you think it’s important to register, in addition to everything you’ve said already?
Ronak: I’d say that registering to vote is the first step to ensuring that your voice is heard in our democracy. And the second step is obviously casting your ballot, but since you won’t be able to do that until you’re registered, I’d say that doing so as soon as possible is the best possible outcome. I just think that taking that first step in registering to vote is one of the most important things that you can do in terms of exercising a constitutionally protected right. In many countries around the world today, and even historically in our own country, large swaths of people were banned from voting. And you know, we have such a unique privilege in this country, and I think the best thing we can do is exercise that right, just like how there are many ways to cast your ballot, especially this year, through mail-in voting, and in-person, and early voting, there are many easy ways to register to vote, and I think that is just something that people should consider doing, especially now with so many major issues facing our generation. From climate change, to guns, to the economy, to many other things that we’re going to have to deal with, I’d say that getting started as soon as possible, making sure that our voices are heard, making sure that the elected officials know that we want our voices to be heard, we want our concerns to be addressed, is the best thing that we could possibly do.
Sagun: That’s a really good point, and so do you want to go through all the steps on how to register to vote?
Ronak: Yeah! So, the thing that I would say, so there are multiple ways that you can do it. I personally registered to vote in person when I got my driver’s license, but that was before the pandemic, and I’m not sure how many people are doing that right now, or are even comfortable doing it. Luckily, you can also register to vote online. So like I was saying earlier, just like how there are many ways to actually vote, there are many ways to register as well. So the website that I would direct all of you to is vote.org. Vote.org is one of the best websites I’ve come across in terms of registering to vote because it provides a bunch of other resources as well. Going through the website right now, it allows you to check your registration, in case you actually registered to vote before but you just can’t remember it. It gives you information, like how to vote by mail, find your polling place, become a poll worker, and even fill out the 2020 census. As for registering to vote, that in itself is pretty much a two minute process, so it won’t take too much time out of your day. For me, I did it in person and it was just as fast as doing it online. I’m sure it might even be faster than that. And an important deadline that I’d have everyone remember, the deadline to register your voting this year is October 13th. So we’re recording this on October 2nd, so we have about 10 days to go until that October 13th deadline, but even after that, like for example, I’m not gonna be able to vote in this year’s election, but I’m sure you can still register to vote, which is why vote.org is a really great resource that I’ve come across.
Sagun: Sounds good. So I think we covered basically all the basics, exactly why we should vote and where you can get more information, and all of this will be put up in a transcript accompanying the podcast. So all in all, I’d like to thank you Ronak for joining me.
Ronak: Thank you so much for having me.
Sagun: And so again, I’m Sagun Shrestha with Ronak today, and that is the end of our podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Bye!