In a concerted effort to boost student
participation in the upcoming election, the Michigan Student
Assembly and the Residence Halls Association have joined forces and
launched a large-scale voter registration drive in campus residence
halls. Voice Your Vote, an MSA commission, is spearheading the
voter campaign, which is sending hundreds of trained volunteers
door-to-door in the residence halls, registering new voters and
providing candidate and voter protection information to interested
students. By the voter registration deadline of Oct. 4, Voice Your
Vote hopes to register 15,000 voters. At this point, the campaign
has registered 3,000 new voters. If it wants to take realistic aim
at its voting target, with less than two weeks to the deadline, the
MSA/RHA coalition needs to intensify its efforts.

Janna Hutz

Given last year’s falling out, the current level of
cooperation between MSA and RHA is surprising. Last year, RHA
locked horns with MSA leadership over what RHA claimed to be
overaggressive campaigning in residence halls. Now that the
organizations have reconciled, the assembly has promised to respect
“no solicitation” signs and tone down its dorm
campaigns. Learning from past mistakes, MSA should ensure that the
voter registration drive is carried out noninvasively, with a
prudent respect for student privacy.

Students should jump to take advantage of the accessibility of
the Voice Your Vote campaign. With such a convenient outlet to
register, even the most apathetic of dorm dwellers has no excuse to
avoid this year’s electoral process. Aside from its intrinsic
democratic value, voting is the most immediate and direct way for
students to confront some of the pressing issues they are faced
with: tuition costs, state funding for the University, rent costs
in Ann Arbor, taxes, etc.

Additionally, Michigan represents one of the larger battleground
states in what is projected to be a very close election. The
University’s student voting bloc could have a demonstrable
effect in determining the administration occupying the White House
and leading our country for the next four years. Unfortunately for
out-of-state students who wish to register to vote absentee, the
Voice Your Vote campaign can only provide informational
services.

Although the rank and file of the Voice Your Vote coalition
needs little bolstering, the organization could still use some
assistance from the University. Consequently, University President
Mary Sue Coleman needs to take a more active role in the student
registration process. Not only does the University offer vast
resources that can aid the campaign, but its own vested interest in
public policy outcomes should compel greater effort from the
administration. Instead of allowing diminishing grants from the
state to tie her hands, Coleman should use the student body, a
large segment of voters friendly to her budget positions, to
influence future budget distributions. If Coleman wants education
to move up on Lansing’s list of priorities, she should take
the initiative to summon a more vocal student body.

The upcoming election confronts the student body with a profound
set of issues that, in one way or another, will have noticeable
consequences on their lives for decades to come. Accordingly, a
small student turnout on Nov. 2 would be inexcusable. While the
Voice Your Vote drive has proven to be an effective tool in
combating student apathy, more effort is needed if pre-election
goals are to be met. The University, in acting for its own benefit,
should remain active and involved in the registration campaign.

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