Before citizens of East Lansing can vote in November’s election, they must be registered to do so by Monday, Oct. 7.
One of the people in charge of overseeing that process is East Lansing City Clerk/Assistant City Manager Marie McKenna.
“In order to register, you can go to the Secretary of State,” McKenna said. “The closest place is the Secretary of State super-center in Frandor, or they can come to our office, and they can fill out a form. You will be required to bring your ID, so if you have a student ID, or if you have a driver’s license, that would suffice.”
“You can come here to register to vote in person,” McKenna said. “You can also download a form from either our website, or the Secretary of State’s website. You can mail in your registration form to us, in which case, if you’re registering by mail, you do still need to vote in-person.”
McKenna also explained the post-registration process.
“What students should know is that if you do register to vote in the city of East Lansing, what happens is, the city clerk, or all municipal clerks and county clerks, are on a shared database with the Secretary of State. It’s called the ‘qualified voter file,’” McKenna said. “What will happen is I’ll get a little message that tells me that you’ve registered to vote, and I’m going to send you what’s called a ‘voter ID card.’ That’s going to verify that you’re registered. It’s going to tell you where you vote, what your polling location is, and it’ll tell you what precinct you’re in.”
This year, East Lansing has redrawn precincts to make it easier for some students and city residents to vote closer to where they live. McKenna said it goes along with city’s new policy, “If you live on-campus, you vote on-campus; if you live off-campus, you vote off-campus.” McKenna said in years past, students that lived in Snyder-Phillips Hall would have to go all the way to All Saints Episcopal Church at 800 Abbott Road to vote.
“A precinct, just to differentiate, is the geographic boundaries of a voting area. The polling area that’s associated with the precinct is where you actually go to vote. So each precinct has a polling location.”
“Our feeling is that on, you know, a cold February primary, the last thing that you really want to do, even if you have every good intention of voting, the chances of walking all the way to All Saints Episcopal, or even catching a bus, are slim to none, so we wanted to fix that.”
McKenna said students who register to vote in East Lansing forfeit their ability to vote in their hometown.
“You can not vote in two locations,” McKenna said. “That would be a felony.”
McKenna said that happens because the students are also forfeiting their home address.
“That does change your address, that’s something to be aware of,” McKenna said. “A lot of people want to maintain their permanent address, their parents’ address. In order to do that, you’re going to need to maintain that as your voting address as well.”
East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas said more residents registering to vote is better for the community.
“I think we generate too much apathy about being involved in government processes,” Lahanas said. “People don’t take the responsibility of citizenship very seriously, and I think that’s something that people should start practicing, from as soon as you’re 18 years old, is register to vote, and start voting, because it’s very important to be involved in a political process. I think it makes for better government, it makes for better representation, because you know the people who are getting elected are actually the people who are supposed to get elected.”
Michigan State University College Republicans Chairman Will Staal said local politicians have more of an impact on East Lansing residents than national ones.
“When it comes to having your voice heard, there is more of a chance that a city council member will hear your concerns with something that goes on in East Lansing than President Obama or Vice President Joe Biden would,” Staal said. “If you called them up, or e-mailed them, there’s no way that you’d get in contact with them. Unless it’s a big deal, there’s probably no way they’re going to talk to you face-to-face. With the East Lansing City Council, that’s completely different. You can have that dialogue, you can go to those meetings, you can affect that. They will listen to you.”
Staal said that his group, along with its Democratic counterparts, are looking to set up such a face-to-face meeting with East Lansing politicians.
“Getting students involved in 2013, College Republicans and College Democrats are working with ASMSU for a forum, and that forum will be a way for students to get that one-on-one talk with these city council representatives,” Staal said.
A representative from Michigan State University College Democrats was not immediately available for comment. For information on how to register to vote, or the election itself, visit www.cityofeastlansing.com.