OTD: Secretary of State registers students day before deadline

Sunday, October 7, 2018 - 7:00pm

A line of students waited outside the University of Michigan League on Monday, for both voter registration assistance and to apply for absentee ballots in their home states. LSA sophomore Oluwakemi Dauda waited in line to receive an absentee ballot and make a change in her local community.

“With everything that’s been going on recently in politics, I think now that we have a chance to use our voice … It’s especially important as college students to use that right,” Dauda said.

The mobile voter registration unit was provided by the Michigan Secretary of State. The mobile unit mainly served voter registration but was open to other Secretary of State services as well.

The Secretary of State office asked all those registering to vote to bring a driver’s license or a Michigan ID card. The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday at 5 p.m.

The unit is a part of the University’s efforts to win the Big Ten Voting Challenge. The challenge encourages Big Ten schools to get as many students to register and vote after historically low voter turnout among young adults.

Kristi Dougan, voter outreach coordinator for the state of Michigan, explained that Michigan requires all first-time voters to either register to vote in person with the Secretary of State, or vote in person if it’s the first time. To mitigate these barriers, the Secretary of State sends out these units to ensure that students are eligible to vote and to answer questions students may have regarding the process of registering to vote.

“A lot of college kids, by virtue of age, are first-time voters and they’re away from home, so they find that to be a hurdle,” Dougan said. “We bring the mobile branch office, drop it right in the middle of campus so that we can register the kids to vote in person.”

Student volunteers for the Big Ten Voting Challenge were stationed beside the mobile unit as well Monday, handing out flyers and stickers to promote their initiative and encourage students to vote.

Rackham student Madison McKenzie is a graduate assistant working on democratic engagement at the Ginsberg Center and works with the Big Ten Voting Challenge on campus.

“The University of Michigan had 14 percent turnout in the last midterm election,” McKenzie said. “We’re trying to make the process as smooth and easy as possible, so students really feel empowered to have their voices heard this election.”

Through the Big Ten Voting Challenge, over 15,000 students have been registered to vote on campus, McKenzie told The Daily.

The Big Ten Voting Challenge will have two awards: one for the institution that yields the highest percentage of registered voters and one for best overall voter improvement.

The University is also partnered with Turbovote, an online tool that helps University students, faculty and staff register to vote.

Midterm elections will take place Nov. 6.