The voter registration deadline in Michigan is October 11, and the corresponding rush of political advocacy has been embodied by the influx of events around campus.
Throughout the first week of October, the Associated Students of Michigan State University hosted a myriad of registration events on campus. The Residence Halls Association sponsored drives to register those on campus, as well. Both the MSU College Democrats and MSU College Republicans could be found lurking opportunely at seemingly every corner.
The featuring of several prominent speakers on campus also drew out a large student base. The visits of Chelsea Clinton, a prominent political activist and the daughter of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and former Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley helped bridge the suspected political disconnect that usually alienates students from the voting booths.
“I feel like more students should be involved in the political process, so it’s really awesome that we have these (events) at our disposal here,” Grace Carmichael, a senior majoring in psychology and interdisciplinary studies, said. “It involves our lives directly, and we’re going to have to be involved when we’re older, so we should start now.”
Alex Jennings, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, attended the Chelsea Clinton rally. He was impressed not only with her speech but with the symbolism of her arrival.
“(Chelsea Clinton) could have gone to the Capitol, she could have gone to Detroit, she could have gone to all these other places, but she went to Michigan State, so I think that definitely shows commitment to trying to get the young vote,” Jennings said.
Jennings recently registered to vote in East Lansing and found it surprisingly easier than he imagined.
“They’re out here like having things to sign. Just go and vote. It’s easy,” Jennings said. “I had an absentee ballot before, and then I gave it up because I have to go back home and get it and bring it back and bring it back home. I was talking to a girl today, signed up. I just have to go to the high school…
“I always think about my one crazy uncle. I have to get his one vote like x’d out.”
Registration is a simple process. As detailed in a step-by-step guide on the Secretary of State website, registering can be done in person or through mail, with the process leading from acquiring an application (which are now circulating around campus), to providing proof of residency in Michigan and registering an address. A voter registration card that outlines the voting precinct and poll location will be then mailed to that address as proof of completion.
East Lansing city clerk Marie Wicks says that the city of East Lansing accommodates students as much as possible, even trying to allay the concern that Jennings brought up about absentee voting. She and her staff understand the complications involved with being between bases in college and attempt to work with students however possible.
“It’s really important to know where you’re registered and (to be) registered where you want to be registered,” Wicks said. “To get an absentee ballot, you fill out an application. That form is available if you put your information in on that website, on the left-hand side, you’ll see vote absentee… There’s nothing that should prevent you from doing that.
“And like I said, if you’re registered here in East Lansing and don’t think you’ll be able to make it to a polling location on voting day, just come and get a ballot. It’s always safe to say that you might be out of town.”
Wicks believes whether in-person balloting or voting absentee, the process should be nearly seamless. In her opinion, the responsibility to vote falls heavier on youth shoulders than other parts of the population. So in East Lansing, even when voting may seem daunting, registration isn’t.
“There was a couple of questions that were like, ‘Are you registered to vote at your previous address?’ I did not have any clues, but they have a nice, little ‘I don’t know box’ right there,” Zach Bangerder, a sophomore agribusiness major, said.
The city of East Lansing set up four polling locations on campus for MSU students. Depending on the area of residence, students are assigned to Brody Hall, the MSU Union, IM West or IM East. Students off-campus have different assignments for where to vote within their localities, although they should double-check to make sure that their residence is still within the city of East Lansing and not in a nearby township or county.
The clerk’s office at the East Lansing City Hall can answer any such concerns.
Despite the common perception of registering as a bureaucratic nuisance, most students, once registered, found the contrary. All described the process as surprisingly expedient and quick.
“Register to vote,” Carmichael pleaded. “It’s not that hard. It takes like two seconds.”