On Election Day 2010, myriad reasons will inevitably dissuade students from exercising their right to vote: I don’t know where to vote. I don’t know how to vote absentee. I didn’t register to vote. It’s not a presidential election, so it doesn’t matter.
Despite being a pioneer of democracy, voters in the United States turn out to vote in embarrassingly low numbers. The power of the youth vote cannot be underestimated. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, in the 2008 presidential election, a significant 62% of college students voted; Generation Y has since been heralded to be the key to President Obama’s historic victory.
But now it’s 2010 and a midterm election; not a presidential election, but one that will elect one-third of the Senate, select members of Congress and some state governors. These elections don’t garner nearly the same amount of public attention as presidential elections. Nonetheless, the midterm elections are predicted to dramatically change the balance of power in Washington, so even if a student doesn’t particularly care about local government, a vote in the mid-term elections will determine whether or not the White House agenda for the next two years is conceivable.
Moral of the story? A vote for local representation is still effectively a vote for (or against) the national administration.
Senior Nicole LaConte encouraged her fellow students to vote this fall. “If you don’t vote, our country won’t be represented anymore,” she said. “It’s the only way to get your opinion across on the national and local level.”
In a random survey of twenty students outside of Harris on Sunday morning, half were already registered to vote but half were not. Of the group, only eight were definitely planning on voting in the mid-term elections. The other twelve students were either unsure, or definitely not voting.
Those who were not decidedly voting in the 2010 midterm elections said they either didn’t know how or where to vote in New London, or that they didn’t think they could vote because they are already registered in their home state.
In fact, students who are already registered at home have two options: they can either vote absentee by contacting local election officials and filling out a form by mail, or, while living at Connecticut College, students can choose to identify as New London residents and vote in the city (keep in mind that doing so will void your prior registration in your hometown).
Tracee Reiser, Associate Dean for Community Learning, advised that students register to vote in New London, as opposed to voting absentee in their hometowns.
“You can reister to vote as a resident of New London or as a resident of any other town in the United States. However, data shows that if you are in the town where you are registered on election day, you are much more likely to actually vote,” she said.
For those students who have yet to register, or who want to register anew in New London, a few different places on campus can help, including the Office of Volunteering and Community Service (OVCS). Of the twenty students surveyed, less than half knew that students, faculty and staff can register to vote in the OVCS office.
In 2008, OVCS, together with CC Republicans and CC Democrats, registered over 500 students for the 2008 presidential election. OVCS transported nearly 400 Connecticut College students to the polls on election day, and an estimated 200 other students reached the polls by their own means of transportation.
The deadline to register to vote on campus is October 15, but students can register in New London until November 1, the day before the elections.
Despite recognizing a drop in student voter registration in non-presidential election years, Reiser still encourages students to make the effort to vote.
“Throughout the ages, people fought long and hard to be able to vote. I encourage the unregistered members of the Connecticut College community to embrace this right and responsibility and stop by OVCS to register. Our democracy depends on active citizens who use their voices and engage in the life of our nation.”