A suburban Washington, D.C., county is urging college students to participate in this November’s election by voting “in-person absentee” at polling places in their hometowns while visiting during fall breaks.
The reason? At least a few students can’t seem to figure out where to buy postage stamps to mail in their absentee ballots, according to an informal survey of interns posted to county departments.
A focus group arranged over the summer by Fairfax County, Va., found that many college students who plan to vote via absentee ballot don’t send their ballots in because they are not exactly sure where to buy a stamp.
County spokeswoman Lisa Connors told WTOP radio that college students in the focus group said they will “go through the process of applying for a mail-in absentee ballot, they will fill out the ballot, and then they don’t know where to get stamps.”
Finding a U.S. Post Office or other location that sells stamps, Connors said, “seems to be like a hump that they can’t get across.”
The focus group included college interns from several county departments, WTOP reported.
Fairfax County, located west of Washington, D.C., is home to several colleges, including George Mason University, Northern Virginia Community College and an extension campus of Virginia Tech.
“They all agreed that they knew lots of people who did not send in their ballots because it was too much of a hassle or they didn’t know where to get a stamp,” Connors said. “Across the board, they were all nodding and had a very spirited conversation about, ‘Oh yeah, I know so many people who didn’t send theirs in because they didn’t have a stamp.’”
Kate Hanley, secretary of the Fairfax County Electoral Board, said officials are working to give college students information about voting where they're registered because it’s "very confusing and it has a lot of pieces that can sort of go wrong in the middle of it."
Even if students can't find a post office, they needn't skip the election: U.S. Postal Service policies say unstamped absentee ballots are to be delivered like other mail and "must never be returned to the voter for additional postage." Postage is collected upon delivery, or at a later date, from the election office.