By Chloe Kiple
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Political disinterest, tricky voting laws and registration processes may stand between millennials and the February 8th deadline to register to vote in the upcoming Michigan presidential primary.
“I don’t want to vote in the presidential primary,” said Michigan State senior journalism major Kelsey Banas. “I’m really just not into it, I hate politics.”
Less than 50 percent of millennials, or people ages 18 to 35, say that they will not vote in the presidential primary according to a January 2016 USA Today survey.
For many young voters like Banas, feeling disengaged or uninterested in politics is a major deterrent to civic engagement and voter registration.
“I think millennials often times feel disconnected from the political process because it’s not very present in their day to day lives,” said Bryn Williams, the vice president for governmental affairs for the Associate Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU). “It’s also just an inconvenience to vote … a big problem with millennials is them not even knowing how to vote.”
ASMSU looks to engage students in the voting process, by offering online voter registration services to help demystify the entire process.
“We [go out to] events registering people with paper forms,” said Williams.
ASMSU has also partnered with TurboVote, a service that allows students to fill out voter registration forms online.
“It takes [students] three minutes to go through the whole process,” said Williams.
ASMSU has registered nearly 1,200 Michigan State students for East Lansing local elections this year and their goal is to register 15,000 students for this year’s presidential election.
Getting millennials to register to vote is one challenge, but even registered voters can get turned away from the polls because of the so-called “Motor Voter law”.
“[The law] stipulates when you turn 21, your voter registration reverts back to the address that’s on your drivers license, rather than the temporary address on the back of your license,” said Williams. “A lot of people on voting day will be turned away from the polls.”
Many citizens are not aware of this law, and do not complete the processing necessary to vote come time.
“My license to register to vote is back at home, I haven’t switched it over to [East Lansing],” said media and information senior Mariah Smith. “I could vote absentee, but I’m not aware of how to do that. I don’t think I’m going to vote in the primary.”
Despite the many challenges facing voter registration groups on campus, there still may be reason to be hopeful.
The MSU Students for Sanders club regularly hosts voter registration booths across campus, and since the recent Iowa primary, they have seen an upswing in millennial voter registrations. Feb. 3, the Wednesday after the primary, was an especially busy day for the club.
“Today had 150 people register in four hours. This is five times what I’d get in a day three months ago,” said Rory Womack, a Students for Sanders volunteer. “I would get on a good day 30 people, and yesterday I got 90, and today, I’m out of forms.”
The millennial generation outnumbers the Baby Boomers and accounts for 25 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ultimately, the voters who show up will decide the election.
“It’s really a waste of huge political capital if [millennials] don’t vote,” Williams said. “This is really a time to get out to the polls and exercise our rights to vote.”