Time for a warm and fuzzy moment: after nearly four years at Brown, I've come to consider this University, as well as Providence, another home. While I still look forward immensely to returning home to Asheville, North Carolina each and every break, I equally relish returning to Brown and the surrounding community.
Granted, Rhode Island is pretty different from my home state. Politically, North Carolina and Rhode Island might as well be Kansas and Oz. North Carolina is firmly situated in the "conservative" South, while Rhode Island is part of "liberal" New England.
North Carolina laws prevent the purchase of alcohol before noon on Sundays and limit liquor sales to regulated ABC stores; in Rhode Island, you can pull up to a liquor store and have the store's staff fill your trunk without ever having to set foot in the store itself.
Rhode Island's politicians tend to be far more interesting than North Carolina's; try as he might, former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards' hijinks just can't compare to those of former Governor Buddy Cianci.
I've spent a summer in Providence, worked on community service and paid state taxes through my paycheck. So when it comes time to align myself politically, where does my allegiance lie?
I, like many other Brown students from around the U.S., choose to cast an absentee ballot every election cycle. Voting in my home state is a way for me to feel connected to my family, friends and the place that has made me who I am today. It provides me with the opportunity to voice my opinion on zoning and taxation issues that still affect me when I return home. It is a way for me to make myself heard politically, in a way that is not always possible in Rhode Island.
Though North Carolina is traditionally considered a "red state," in past years, formerly predictable elections usually called early for Republican candidates became more uncertain as a new group of Democrats challenged the status quo. In 2006, Democrat Heath Shuler claimed Republican Charles Taylor's seat, which the latter had held for eight consecutive terms.
As a registered Democrat, I voted for Shuler in what was my first ever election, and I was proud to be part of his success. When early poll numbers for the 2008 presidential election showed North Carolina emerging as an important swing state, I excitedly requested my absentee ballot again.
I believe my vote was well spent. As the election results rolled in, North Carolina remained "Too close to call." The final tally gave the Old North State to Barack Obama by a mere 13, 962 votes, mine being one of them. My vote also went to the election of a new Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, and Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.
North Carolinians (conservative and liberal alike) aren't the only Brown students who may benefit by registering to vote in their home state. There are twenty-five states where citizens can vote to veto state statutes, and 22 where voters can initiate laws — states that a significant number of Brown students call home. This November, Maine voters had the opportunity to support or overturn the state's recently added same-sex marriage law, an issue with national significance.
I do not want to downplay the benefits of voting in Rhodes Island, however. There are many good reasons to vote in Rhode Island and many important issues at stake that would benefit from the voice of young, politically active students. For example, Sheldon Whitehouse was helped by strong support from college students in 2006.
So when it comes time to register to vote, consider the benefits of voting in each state in which you can claim residency, and choose carefully. Engaging with the community outside College Hill is an important duty all Brown students should undertake, but there are more ways than casting a ballot to effect change in Providence and Rhode Island.
If Rhode Island political issues move you, then by all means cast your vote here — it's a great way to get involved in the state that serves as our residence for eight months out of the year. But if you feel your vote would be better spent in your home state, just click your heels three times and request your absentee ballot. Sometimes, there's just no place (to vote) like home.
Adrienne Langlois '10 is actually pretty jealous of states with ballot measures.