Marquette U. Student Group Works On Getting The Youth Vote

This story was written by Ashley Niedringhaus, The Marquette Tribune


The countdown is on and there are only 27 days until the 2008 presidential election. But for residents in 21 states, the deadline for voter registration has already passed.

In Wisconsin, the official deadline for early voter registration is Wednesday, Oct. 15, but Wisconsin is one of six states that allows for registration on Election Day.

To help promote youth voter turnout, the Les Aspin Center for Government is registering voters in front of the Brew Bayou in the Alumni Memorial Union on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. through Oct. 15. Students can also register any time before Oct. 15 at the Office of Public Affairs, 1616 W. Wells St.

"The (Les Aspin) students who have spent time in Washington, D.C., and have the experience on Capitol Hill know how important student involvement is," said Peter Prigge, a senior in the Marquette University College of Arts & Sciences and co-chair of the Les Aspin Alumni Council.

"We feel so strongly that this election is so crucial to our generation that we want to help them register," he said.

Prigge is one of 25 to 30 Les Aspin alumni that are deputy registrars and are able to register Milwaukee residents.

According to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, 6.5 million citizens under the age of 30 participated in the 2008 presidential primaries and caucuses. The national youth voter turnout rate rose from 9 to 17 percent.

Emily Kirby, senior researcher with CIRCLE, gave several contributing factors to the increase in young voters.

Research says that just being asked to vote and peer-to-peer discussions on voting are responsible for 8 to 10 percent of the total increase in youth turnout, Kirby said.

Kirby also said a breakdown of structural barriers, like early registration deadlines, and more closely contested elections are also contributing factors.

"States that allow Election Day registration rank 14 percentage points higher in voter turnout," Kirby said.

Even with higher voter turnouts, only six states have same-day registration. Kirby said this is due to a fear of voter fraud and checking the accuracy of voter identification.

Prigge said registering to vote before Election Day can save voters time come Nov. 4.

"Voting can take 30 minutes if you're already registered but around an hour and a half if you're not," Prigge said. "Long lines turn some voters away."

In the first two days of on-campus registration, Prigge said more than 130 new voters were registered.

"Everyone has their own political feelings and the goal is to get students to vote regardless of who they plan to vote for," Prigge said.

For students looking to register in their home states where the deadline has not passed, absentee voting is their only option.

According to longdistancevoter.org, absentee voting processes vary state-to-state. In Wisconsin, requests for an absentee ballot must be made to the municipal clerk by 5 p.m. on Oct. 30.

Kerry Faylor, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she is voting by absentee ballot in Nebraska.

"It's a really difficult process," Faylor said. "I printed the form online but they sent it back."

In Nebraska, the deadline for voter registration ends on Oct. 29.

"I thought about voting in Wisconsin because it's such a swing state," Faylor said. "But I don't want to re-register at a different address when I move next semester."

Faylor also said she thought voter turnout among college studets would be higher if registration was open nationally on Election Day like it is in Wisconsin.

"College students are always busy so we don't always think of things until the last minute," she said. "It is so easy to just show up and vote."

For more information on campus voting and where to vote Nov. 4, visit www.marquette.edu/vote.
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