With one of the most crucial elections in history just weeks away, the campaign to get young people to the polls is in full swing. From MTV’s “Rock the Vote” to P.Diddy’s “Vote or Die,” a national movement to increase student voting is rapidly expanding.
The issue now, however, is where college students can register to vote. Whereas the traditional absentee ballot is used for college students not attending school in their hometown, some students believe they should be able to vote where they live most of the year, and on local issues that directly affect them, such as housing regulations.
Since Oct. 4, the last day to register to vote in Florida, students have been able to cast absentee ballots.
Get Out the Vote has been working on campus to register students to vote for about a year now and has registered approximately 2,000 students to vote in Coral Gables. The organization does not directly sponsor absentee ballots because of the great variation of procedures from state to state.
“[Our] mission is twofold-empowerment and education,” Pamela Scheiss, director of Get Out the Vote, said.
According to a recent CNN article, many college students have encountered a barrier to voting when they try to use their campus address as their permanent address when registering to vote. The problem is that dorms are considered temporary addresses and college students are required to cast an absentee ballot from their permanent place of residence.
Michael O’Loughlin, a political science professor at Salisbury University in Maryland, along with researchers at the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Salisbury University, indicates that states that force out-of-town students to vote absentee are likely to have a lower percentage of student voting.
According to Scheiss, Florida allows students who are from out of state to register as Florida residents.
However, other states are not as accommodating. Some students from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., said that the system is unfair and have filed a federal lawsuit demanding the right to vote in their college town, where they feel they will have the most impact.
“Students are being disenfranchised,” Young Han told CNN. Han is a junior at Hamilton College in New York, but originally from Seattle, Wash.
“It makes no sense for me to vote in a city election where my parents live,” Lowe said to CNN. “I live in Williamsburg nine months out of the year.”
Scheiss concurred that students feel they have a greater impact voting in their college towns, especially in Florida.
“The greatest motivation for voting in Florida is that you are spending about four years of your life in this state; the decisions made by the government are directly affecting your life,” Scheiss said. “Considering the presidential election, Florida is a huge swing state, and as a young voter, I couldn’t imagine any other place where you’d like your vote to be cast, especially considering the 2000 election debacle.”
In association with Council for Democracy, College Republicans and College Democrats, Get Out the Vote will be holding a series of events prior to the Nov. 2 presidential election to make sure that students are well informed of the candidates and to encourage student involvement in the election.
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Shelly Garg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.