Voter registration is one of those looming tasks that rests in the back of your mind until the missed deadline reminds you that it’s too late. It’s understandable — registration isn’t always easy because, without a driver’s license or state-issued ID, some states require you to fill out and hand-deliver forms. However, with the 2024 presidential primaries taking place in less than six months, it is crucial to break the to-do barrier now. But before you can even consider tackling those tasks, ask yourself, “Where do I want to vote?” Wellesley College students who wish to vote for the Democratic party in upcoming elections should not register to vote in Massachusetts — no matter what state they’re originally from. Instead, they should request absentee ballots from their home state well in advance of an election to ensure that their vote counts.
If a student lives in a swing state, or a “purple state,” they should absolutely cast votes in their hometown. There are currently 10 states classified as swing states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Georgia. There’s a reason why presidential candidates in general elections focus their campaign efforts on swing states through additional advertising and visits: these states are crucial to the outcome of presidential elections, majorities in Congress and ultimately the partisan positions of the Supreme Court. While the allocations of your state’s electoral votes do not change the inherent value of your ballot, voting in a purple state is a tactical move that could tip the scales in favor of your preferred candidate.
Voters in firmly red states often feel discouraged from voting for Democratic candidates because their ballots sink into a sea of opposition. However, subtle yet frequent shifts can occur within red states after landmark political events, such as the fall of Roe v. Wade, which can transform into tangible change — especially as parties mold their platforms to appeal to new demographics. In the 2022 and 2023 elections, the deep red states of Kentucky, Kansas and Montana rejected measures that would exclude abortion from their state constitutions, and swing states Michigan and Ohio passed measures enshrining reproductive rights into their state constitutions. In Michigan, this coincided with a larger number of Democrats elected, illustrating that partisan issues can influence party choices. Some might see voting blue in Massachusetts as presenting a similar conundrum in which individual votes ostensibly shrink in importance as the relatively homogenous electorate drowns out dissent. But these scenarios are different because you can take the first step towards change by making your voice heard in a red state rather than reinforcing the inevitable Democratic victory Massachusetts. It is also important to note that any narrative that paints voting as pointless only further discourages civic engagement in a time when democracy already faces threats of erosion.
Is there a difference between voting in a firmly blue home state and voting in Massachusetts? Given Massachusetts’s history, it is smarter to vote in places with less concentrated Democratic populations. With the exception of the District of Columbia and Vermont, Massachusetts contains the highest percentage of Democratic voters. Even though some states are solidly blue, like Illinois, there is still a notable percentage of people who do not vote Democrat. However, it is still practical if a student chooses to vote in Massachusetts because they spend a larger portion of their year as a MA constituent.
I was born and raised in Boston, and my family still lives there, so I might not be the most qualified advocate for this issue. However, it is because I am limited to casting ballots in Massachusetts that I recognize the importance of strategic voting for out-of-state college students.