Voting easy; should be easier

BY
BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published September 24, 2003

Voting is one of the the most vital and important rights in a democratic society. In order to ensure the will of the people prevails, voting is a near necessity. Even though this year is an off-year election, it is still important for students to vote. In each election cycle, there are key proposals that should not be overlooked. The ballot contains many local elections that have a surprising influence on people's lives.

In an effort to get students registered and excited to vote, the "Our Future College Tour" is making a stop at the University this Thursday, at 5 p.m. Events will include free food, a movie on the 2000 Florida election, live performances and speakers. Admission is free for those who either are already registered or who plan to register to vote at the event.

Despite the obvious importance of voting, the United States still suffers from chronically low voter turnout. Even in the hotly contested 2000 election, slightly less than 60 percent of eligible voters actually voted. With the election as close as it was, students could have proven the decisive difference in the outcome of the election - had they voted. Unfortunately, college students consistently have low voter turnout, partly due to complications in the registration process.

Voter registration is often considered a difficult process and students, away from their home communities, able to vote for the first time, miss out on registration. Despite efforts like "Rock the Vote" only 51 percent of college-age students are registered to vote as opposed to the 70 percent of the total voting-age population. This is why college students have a stunningly low voter turn-out rate at 36 percent.

A main contributing factor as to why registration and turnout is so low is that students rarely commute directly from home to the college, thereby requiring the added hassle of an absentee ballot. Moreover, in most states, Michigan included, you must vote in person, not by absentee the first time you vote. Many University students are faced with a choice: travel hundreds of miles to vote in person in their home districts or change their voter registration to Ann Arbor, well before the election. Most students don't want to deal with the hassle of the registration process all over again for the new city in which they now reside.

Michigan should adopt a similar same-day registration process as the one that has been instituted in states such as Minnesota. In same-day registration, an individual can register and vote at the same time, thus opening up the voting process to more individuals. These policies seem to help, as Minnesota has a nearly 70 percent voter turnout.

Voting and voter registration is easy. With a few simple changes, more students would be able and interested in participating in one of our most fundamental and sacred rights.