For Out-of-state Students, Picking A Candidate Is Just One Voting Issue

This story was written by Alaina Buzas, The BG News


As campaigners bombard campus registering Bowling Green State University students to vote, many out-of-state students brush them off, having no ties to an Ohio ballot. But if they really want their vote to count in the upcoming election, they may want to rethink their registration.

With only four days left before Ohio's registration deadline, non-partisan Web site CountMore.org is rushing to help students find out if their vote will carry more weight in their home state, or the state where they go to college.

"When you're in college you have so much stuff going on, and you just don't realize you have the choice," said Matt Lerner, CTO of Front Seat, the Seattle-based company that created CountMore.org. "It can be hard for people to figure out where their vote counts more."

Lerner said that based on the results of past elections, where students chose to vote really could make a difference in battleground states like Ohio.

"In 2000, the election was decided in Florida by 200 votes. There are thousands and thousands of students from Florida that go to school in other states," Lerner said.

CountMore.org has users choose their school and home states, then compares current polling data, the states' 2004 election results and the number of Electoral College votes each state has to determine where a student's vote will carry the most weight.

In some cases, it's a toss-up, but no matter the outcome, students are told their registration deadline, given the link for voter registration and encouraged to tell their friends about the site and the CountMore.org Facebook group.

"The Facebook group has been a great way to organize people. We have almost 700 members and we've gotten about 50 volunteers to e-mail different schools and states about CountMore," Lerner said.

But CountMore.org grassroots movement didn't start with Facebook.

Leading up to the 2004 presidential election, CountMore developers Lerner and Jesse Kocher were touring campuses, registering student voters. Lerner said 30-40 students were being registered every hour in swing states.

"That was so effective that we wanted to make a Web site that would make it easy for any college student to figure out where their vote counted more," Lerner said.

Aleisha Jacobson, office manager at Front Seat, said thanks to the large amount of public information available on elections, the idea for the Web site became a successful reality in less than a week.

"I think it's been a good success especially for how quickly the site was put together," Jacobson said. "Our original goal was to register 150 people to vote and we have surpassed that. Yesterday [Sept. 30] we were at 214."

According to Lerner, even though registration dates in most states are coming up quickly, the site will continue running even after the November election.

"We've gotten great feedback from students that say this is really empowering," Lerner said.

Some students, like Sara McGuire of Allen Park, Mich., are aware of their ability to choose and stuck with voting on their home state's ballot.

"Michigan and Ohio are both pretty much swing states so I'm sticking with my roots. It's mostly just a territorial thing for me," McGuire said.

Senior Ross Duncan will be voting on his home state of Texas' ballot, even though CountMore.org would suggest he cast his vote in Ohio.

"I know I had the choice I'm registered in Texas because that is more of my state than Ohio. I'm only in Ohio for school," Duncan said.

Other students have chosen to vote at school for convenience, not for the weight of their vte. Michigan native junior Wade LaFever registered to vote in Ohio over the summer.

"I figured since I'll be in Ohio during the election, it'd just be easier to vote here, rather than drive up to Michigan," LaFever said.

Even though many students understand the choice they have, some question the importance of the choice of where to vote.

"Some students have been saying 'why should it matter what state I live in for a presidential election?'" Lerner said.

Lerner uses CountMore.org to explain the importance to battleground states in a presidential election but thinks the question leads to an even more important issue.

"In some ways I think CountMore raises a good question about whether or not the Electoral College is still effective," Lerner said.
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