Another pivotal presidential election is approaching, and the future of our country remains uncertain. With the race tightening between Barack Obama and John McCain, every vote counts. Unfortunately, Michigan’s restrictive voting laws continue to complicate the voter registration process, discouraging student participation and increasing voter apathy. Rather than complicate an already intimidating system, the state should simplify voter registration. But until the system changes, it’s up to students to navigate the tangled process.
There are two main voting obstacles for students in Michigan: Rogers’s Law and the state’s voter identification requirement. Rogers’s Law, which was a not-so-veiled attempt in 1999 by then-state Sen. Mike Rogers to disenfranchise students, requires that the address on your driver’s license match the address on your voter registration card. Similarly, Michigan’s voter identification law requires that you show a photo ID before you vote or sign an affidavit swearing you are who you say you are.
While these two laws may seem unnecessarily complicated (because they are), they shouldn’t stop students from voting. There are simple solutions. If you want to vote in Ann Arbor instead of your home district, register to vote using your local address and make sure to officially change your permanent address with the Secretary of State. In order to change your address you need to go to the Secretary of State’s office to do it in person or download the form from http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127–25412–,00.html and send it in by mail. In either case, you will receive a sticker to put on the back of your driver’s license.
If all else fails, you can vote wherever you are registered if you sign an affidavit before you vote — whether or not your driver’s license matches your voter registration card. Keep that in mind.
Beyond those big issues, there area few more things that will help you make voting easier. Plan ahead. When registering, come prepared with a valid form of identification, including a driver’s license, paycheck stub or bank statement with your name and current address on it. Don’t assume that you’re registered just because you signed up with a canvasser on the Diag. Sometimes these people make errors or don’t file the appropriate paperwork. To check if you’re actually registered, visit www.michigan.gov/vote . Keep in mind that it takes up to 30 days to record any recent changes to your record. Anyone not registered by Monday, Oct. 6 will not be able to vote in Michigan, so don’t wait until the last minute. Every vote matters.
Unfortunately, this conversation needs to be revisited every election year because voting in Michigan is the opposite of what it should be: simple. Our state legislature has defaulted on its obligation to make it easy, too. Implementing measures like same-day registration helps simplify voting and increase voter turnout. Even better, in Oregon, for example, all ballots are mailed to registered voters and then either submitted in a designated “drop box” or mailed back to election officials. These changes make it easier to vote and help increase voter turnout.
These things aren’t likely to change anytime soon, though — at least not until after November. Until then, students will have to navigate Michigan’s unnecessarily complicated system. Whether you support Barack Obama, John McCain or the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, you should make sure to register and vote. Visit www.michigan.gov/vote for more information.