GVSU students head to the polls on Election Day

By Hannah Lentz | 11/3/16 12:00am

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The average college student at Grand Valley State University has seen three presidents in office, six presidential races and countless political debates during their lifetime. They've listened to their parents and grandparents talk about political preferences and they've done their research. Now, it's time for them to vote.

This year's presidential election is one of the most controversial and contentious races college students have seen in their lifetime. Since the majority of students at Grand Valley State University are between the ages of 18 and 24, this is the first time they will have a chance to make their voices heard in a presidential election for many of them.

Ottawa County has an elections division of the county clerk that oversees all elections in Ottawa County and ensures they are in accordance with Michigan and federal election law.

Steven Daitch is currently the local elections coordinator for the Ottawa County clerk's office.

"Michigan is electing much more than the president on Nov. 8, we’re also electing over 100 members of the state legislature, 14 members of Congress, and judges at multiple levels," Daitch said. "Each of these elections will shape the future of our state for years to come."

Daitch emphasized the importance of both voting both at the national level and the local level.

"It is extremely important that young voters get out and vote on Election Day," Daitch said. "The decisions that are being made today will directly affect their future."

Since many college students are away from home during the election period, every state will let voters send in their votes by absentee ballot if they can't make it to the polls on Election Day. Additionally, most states will let citizens vote by mail even if they can vote in person though the request forms, eligibility requirements and deadlines vary by state.

Currently, Ottawa County has issued over 33,000 absentee ballots this year, which is an increase of about 4,000 ballots from 2012, when 28,900 absentee ballots were issued.

There are also several initiatives in process to ensure that everyone, no matter their location, has the opportunity to vote.

"We have a special process for helping military personnel and overseas citizens vote," Daitch said. "This election, we’ve received dozens of requests from all over the world. The furthest request I’ve seen was during the presidential primary in March, when we had a request from an Ottawa County citizen in Antarctica."

The Kent County elections office is also working to accommodate the upcoming election. The team is working 50-60 hours a week to perform statutory duties before Election Day.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in both Ottawa and Kent counties. To find the appropriate polling place based upon residency, visit www.vote.michigan.gov/mvic.

Things to remember on Tuesday, Nov. 8:

- Vote early in the day, or at less popular times. The best time to vote is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m, and in the afternoon from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

- Michigan allows voters to vote without a photo ID if the voter does not have an ID on them when they go to vote. There are several valid forms of ID that will speed up the process for voters. The most common form of ID is a Michigan driver's license. However, students can use their GVSU student IDs. Out-of-state students who have changed their residency to Allendale can also use out-of-state driver's licenses to vote.

- Do research before going to the polls. Electronic devices cannot be used in the polling place, so any research on a candidate has to be done before going to vote. This also means that selfies and Snapchats are not allowed in a polling place.

- Don’t worry if you have any questions or if you make a mistake on your ballot. Feel free to ask any election worker if you need assistance.

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