With the deadline to register to vote in the midterm elections approaching on Oct. 9, several groups have been providing resources to help students register and planning ways to educate young voters.
The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office is traveling to colleges across Michigan to set up a “mobile branch office” to register students to vote, said Voter Outreach Coordinator Kristi Dougan.
“We have a tour that’s planned for all 15 universities in Michigan, a couple of community colleges,” Dougan said. “So, 3,000 miles we travel with this.”
Dougan said the mobile branch is used so college students can register to vote in person, making them eligible to ask for an absentee ballot.
She said it’s important for college students to register to vote in person so they can understand how registering connects them to where they vote on campus and where they can receive a ballot.
It’s also important to vote in the upcoming election, Dougan said.
“This year in Michigan we’re electing a new governor, a new attorney general, a new secretary of state, we have a U.S. senator that’s up, all the congressmen, all of the state legislature and it’s important for them (students) to have their voice heard in all of those races,” she said.
There are also three statewide ballot proposals, including:
- Proposal 1: Legalize recreational marijuana
- Proposal 2: Establish a commission of citizens to have authority to adopt district boundaries
- Proposal 3: Authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration
The websites provide polling locations, sample ballots, information on the proposals and more.
“We would just encourage folks to register to vote and to vote to make their voice heard and to continue to be active in the voting process,” Dougan said. “So that they get involved in voting early and get hooked in voting early so that you’ll be a lifetime voter.”
Lynn Vela, a volunteer with the Sunrise Movement in Lansing, a group of young people passionate about the environment and climate change, said the group has been registering MSU students to vote since they’ve returned to campus for the fall.
The group has been “gathering in classrooms, living rooms, and worship halls across the country,” according to their website.
“They (the Sunrise Movement) want to have a say about the environment and climate change. They don’t feel that they’re listened to, so they’re working really hard to get a big voter block,” Vela said. “I support them because I’m not a young person, but people of my age vote too.”
Vela said other groups that are passionate about a certain issue, such as Voters Not Politicians who are working to get Proposal 2 on the ballot to pass, make an impact and energize others to vote.
“The efforts by all the people that are interested in a certain cause are making a difference, getting everybody interested,” she said. “Plus, we want to give a reason to vote.”
It’s important for college students to vote because “If you don’t like what’s being done to you, you need to do something,” Vela said.
“It’s going to affect the rest of their lives–what happens,” she said. “They can start setting things up to make it be what they want instead of having to then respond and react and be mad and try to change something that’s already been done.”
Shelby Krohn, a member of the Sunrise Movement, said the group has registered almost 1,000 students on MSU’s campus so far.
The Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, has also been providing resources to students to register to vote before the general election.
Eli Pales, ASMSU’s vice president for governmental affairs, said the organization has been going door to door and going to events to get more students registered to vote on campus.
On Saturday, Sept. 29 during the MSU home football game against Central Michigan University, students from ASMSU and CMU’s student government collaborated outside of the stadium to register students.
Pales said ASMSU also provides TurboVote to students.
“That allows students to fill out their registration form online and give them an envelope to mail it back to the clerk,” he said. “Unfortunately, as of right now, there’s no online voter registration, so we try to get as close as we can to that, which is filling out the form online and mailing it in via envelope.”
So far, ASMSU has registered roughly 900 to 1,000 students to vote through TurboVote and roughly 2,300 through the MSU Academic Orientation Program, or AOP, and with MSUvote, Pales said.
“It’s labor intensive, but it’s something we feel very strongly about,” he said.
After the deadline to register on Oct. 9, Pales said ASMSU will continue its efforts to educate students on the midterm election. He said the group will have a lot of posters around campus and is working to provide students with a voter guide.
ASMSU is also planning to have more candidates visit campus.
On Tuesday, Oct. 2, ASMSU held a forum with the MSU Board of Trustee candidates, where they could speak about issues on MSU’s campus. Pales said ASMSU and other student groups are planning to continue having these candidates speak to students leading up to the election.
“The student groups have been very proactive about this,” he said, noting that several Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates visited campus in the spring before the Aug. 7 primary election. “So, resources, it’s not just us, but there are student groups bringing candidates to campus.”
It’s important for college-aged students to vote because it gives them a voice in the government, Pales said.
“Voting is putting your vote where your mouth is. It’s about making sure that the government is responsive to your interests,” he said. “And, if you forgo voting, ultimately it means forgoing having a choice in the way the government works.”