This article contains generic information – not legal advice. If you find yourself in a questionable or problematic situation, seek professional legal counsel.

If you’re in college and of voting age (typically 18 years old), consider casting your vote this upcoming election year. It’s easy to become absorbed with science and math studies while forgetting about the importance of law and politics. The bottom line is this: your practice of medicine will be affected by the type of healthcare system and policies our nation implements. Educating yourself about current issues and making an informed decision to vote for a candidate is significant to your future as a medical professional. Regardless of which side of the aisle you sit, your vote is your voice and it should be expressed.

However, casting your vote takes some planning. Since 2010, several state legislatures have narrowed voting rights and increased voting restrictions.1 Keep the following in mind:

  • State Law. Every state has its own laws about who may register and vote. Check the information in your state. All states require that you be a United States citizen by birth or naturalization to register to vote in federal and state elections. You cannot be registered to vote in more than one place at a time.
  • Registration Deadlines. Each state has its own deadline for registering to Check the deadline for your state. Many states require registration 30-days prior to an election. In other words, if you’re not registered and want to vote in the 2016 General Election in November, the clock is ticking.
  • Absentee Voting. An absentee ballot is a vote cast by someone who has been permitted to vote by mail because of physical absence from the usual voting district. For example, if you use your parents’ residence as your permanent address, you’ll need to find out about your state laws regarding casting an absentee ballot since you may not be able to leave campus to travel home and vote.
  • Voter ID. Before 2011, only two states required voters to show government-issued photo IDs at the polls. Currently, at least nine states have strict ID laws. While some states accept state-issued student IDs other states do not, so make sure you have the appropriate ID to vote.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” If you think you’re registered to vote in a particular state/county or want to register to vote, call or email your local Election Commission. Also, you can register to vote online via the non-profit, non-partisan Rock the Vote organization:

Remember that your vote is your voice – and every vote counts!

Stay tuned for the next article about how a renown surgeon uses checklists for success and how you can too.


Headshot of Erin FortnerErin Fortner is a licensed attorney in Georgia where she practiced pharmaceutical product liability law and was a special victims unit prosecutor. She lives in the D.C. metro area and is attending a full-time post-baccalaureate program. Ms. Fortner also recently earned her EMT certification.