In the last election, youth turnout in Michigan was near an all-time high, with half of all eligible young people voting, making up a full fifth of the electorate, according to a Fox News Poll. They showed that 2008 wasn’t an anomaly. And with so many issues affecting students, from education, to healthcare and the economy, it’s not hard to see why they were so energized.
However, over the years, such high numbers have generally been the exception, not the rule. Furthermore, state and local elections, which affect our lives much more directly, often have a
significantly lower turnout.
Of course, some of the low turnout is due to voter apathy, and our lawmakers could certainly do more to make engaging in the political process more attractive. However, it’s not fair to place all of the blame on students. I believe that if you make the process easy and give students the opportunity to vote, they will. Unfortunately, students are not always given a simple and straightforward chance to register.
That needs to change; we need to raise the standard for student
Last semester, Student Government worked to register as many students to vote as possible—right up until the deadline. We hauled out tables, signs and clipboards to dozens of different events around campus to register students using new technology on tablets, smartphones and even good old fashioned paper forms. But for every student we signed up, there were two we missed, whether they missed our table, didn’t have time or took online classes from home and never saw us. Students shouldn’t be denied a chance to register because of their schedule.
The solution is simple: institutionalize voter registration. Under federal law, universities are required to make a “good faith effort” to provide students with the materials they need to vote.
Every incoming student who passes through the university to register for classes should also be able to register for elections.
It would be a quick, simple way to ensure no one gets left out.
In 1993, Congress passed the Motor Voter Act, which lets qualified citizens easily register to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s license. Since then, it has succeeded in adding millions of registered voters to the polls without any hassle on their part. It’s time students had the same opportunity.
—Student Body President Matthew Norfleet and
Director of Political Action Niño Monea
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