Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO Votes prepares students for election season

Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Emily Denlinger, founder of SEMO Votes, collects information to help people register to vote. Pictured here at the Cape Girardeau Women's March held Jan. 19, 2020.
Photo by Madison Stuerman

With the November elections quickly approaching, many are planning to cast their ballot. Students may have questions about how to register, how to make sure they are registered or what methods of voting are available to them.

Southeast art professor Emily Denlinger founded SEMO Votes to help students navigate the voting process.

The bipartisan non-profit was founded in 2018 to provide students with accurate information about the voting process and help new voters register. Denlinger said she saw students that needed help registering to vote after the 2016 election.

“I had students who thought they were registered to vote in the presidential election,” Denlinger said. “They had registered through Rock the Vote and found out that they had actually not been registered.”

Denlinger said it is important for people to realize the purpose of Rock the Vote and organizations like it is to collect people's information in order to remind them to vote.

“Some of the websites that look more professional, like Rock the Vote, they have more money to make a professional-looking website,” Denlinger said. “The state doesn't necessarily have the funding to make a really impressive-looking website.”

SEMO Votes helps students from all around the country register in their home counties and cast an absentee ballot from Cape Girardeau.

“If you want to help control and change local politics in the place that you call home, where you are going to be returning when you graduate, it makes sense to do an absentee [ballot],” Denlinger said. “... Especially now during COVID. If you live in the dorms, I would absolutely recommend doing an absentee. If you get sent home between Oct. 7 and the election on Nov. 3, you are no longer living in that space, so you can’t vote in Cape anymore.”

Voting absentee is a form of voting by mail which requires a notary. SEMO Votes helps students contact notaries who will help them cast an absentee ballot for free.

Voters can cast absentee ballots six weeks early by mail or by visiting the local voting authority in their home county.

“You can get a paper absentee vote and hand-deliver that to the office … So a student from St. Louis could go home on a Friday in October and vote for the Nov. 3 election,” Denlinger said.

As new laws and regulations have been written in response to COVID-19, Denlinger said many young voters want to be involved because they are seeing firsthand how their voice can make a difference in policy on all levels of government .

“I think a lot of our students currently are interested; they just don't know how to find that information,” Denlinger said. “A lot of students are passionate about it because they are seeing how it affects their life currently.”

Denlinger encourages students to talk with their friends and family about voting to ensure people are properly informed.

“We always assume our friends are registered to vote, and then we find out that they aren’t registered to vote when it's too late,” Denlinger said. “So we try to start having these conversations early.”

DIfferent states and counties have different deadlines and requirements for voting absentee, but all 50 states offer some form of absentee voting. The Missouri deadline to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 21.

For more information on absentee ballots, contact the Election Authority in your home county.

For more information on SEMO Votes, visit their Facebook page.