Unless you haven’t left your dorm room during the past month, you’ve probably been stopped and asked to register to vote. But if you were stuck in your dorm room, you might very well have missed out. That’s because until yesterday, only one student group has been allowed in the dorms: Voice Your Vote. And even though this group has done its job, it has encountered setbacks — including being kicked out of the dorms last Monday, though the ban was revoked the very next day. All of this speaks to the need for University Housing to allow partisan groups to canvass in residence halls, too. Unfortunately, this is a change that should have come much earlier — since today is the deadline to register.

Voice Your Vote — a non-partisan commission sponsored by the Michigan Student Assembly — has constituted the University’s main effort to encourage students to vote. A 1998 Amendment to the Higher Education Act requires universities that receive federal funding to make a “good-faith” effort to provide students with access to voter registration. The University fulfills this requirement in part by encouraging students to register with Voice Your Vote and by permitting volunteers from this organization — and only this organization — to register students inside residence halls. To participate, volunteers must be trained in election law and promise to work in a non-partisan and legal way.

And keeping the registration effort in the residence halls non-partisan and highly trained has its benefits. For one, allowing only well-trained volunteers to register students prevents the spread of misinformation — a too-common problem because of our state’s convoluted and sometimes confusing registration process. In the same vein, keeping the effort non-partisan brings a sense of trustworthiness to the effort, since there isn’t supposed to be a political motivation underlying the effort.

But as students found out last week, there’s a big pitfall, too: It’s tough to control these efforts. After allegations that Voice Your Vote volunteers violated the non-partisan agreement and lied to students, University Housing reacted brashly, kicking them out of residence halls. Then, realizing the stupidity of what it did, it let them back in the next day. More changes may be in order, too — namely, allowing partisan groups to canvass in dorms. (The College Democrats say the University recently agreed to let them register voters in residence halls. The Daily wasn’t able to get confirmation from the University before press time. Either way, the move comes a bit late. The registration deadline is today.)

Giving partisanship a place in the process is warranted. The First Amendment protects students’ right to free speech and assembly. Students should not receive a tempered version of that because they live in residence halls. More importantly, partisan groups play an important role. They can answer important questions about candidates and help students to be more knowledgeable and more engaged in the political process.

Unfortunately, all the shake-ups in the registration process at residence halls are too little too late: The deadline to register to vote is today. If Housing was uncomfortable letting student groups knock on dorm doors, it could have taken other actions, like providing groups tables in dorm lobbies. But this should have come as a result of University Housing’s willingness to increase student voter participation, not because it was put on the spot.

With the registration deadline already here, it’s a little late to give both partisan and non-partisan groups greater access to the dorms. But in the future, University Housing needs to ensure that the political process is just as welcome in the dorms as it is on the Diag.

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