This story was written by Steve Miller, Montana Kaimin
As Election Day quickly approaches, some out-of-state college students may want to know where to cast their votes for the presidential race where it would count the most. This may be in the states where they attend school or in their home states.Countmore.org might not necessarily make this choice any easier, but it certainly helps a voter think a little clearer.
Launched on Sept. 19 by Seattle-based civic software company Front Seat, Countmore.org is a Web site designed to inform students of the states in which their votes will carry the most weight. The site offers a side-by-side comparison between the home state and the school state based on factors such as 2004 election results, electoral votes, population, current polls and which party usually wins. An arrow then indicates which of the states to vote in, unless the factors for either one are very similar. In these cases, the double-ended arrow reads toss up.Students can also register to vote on the site.Matt Lerner, Front Seat chief technical officer and founder of Countmore, conceived the idea for the site after visiting swing states and registering college students to vote during the 2004 election season.Lerner said he hopes the site will help college students further realize their importance in the voting process.We hope to get students talking about and excited about voting, Lerner said. He added that because of the close results of the 2000 election in states like Florida, getting students to vote will be key come Election Day.Lerner also said that switching from the Electoral College to a simpler popular vote would be more relevant to more people in the country, and that it would discourage excessive campaigning that targets a small percentage of undecided voters in crucial swing states.Its really a disappointment, Lerner said.The site is founded on the legal precedence of Symm v. United States, a 1979 Supreme Court case which ruled that college students can vote in either their home state or their school state.Lerner said that Countmore has a Facebook group with over 700 members.Christopher Muste, a University of Montana assistant professor of American politics, said that while the premise of Countmore is interesting, its purpose is essentially the same thing the presidential candidates are doing by maximizing the influence of student voters.One drawback of Countmores approach, Muste said, is that it seems to underplay the importance of state elections, which affect students through university budgets and financial aid.[Countmore] really focuses solely on the presidential campaign, Muste said. There are other elections that are very important in the United States.In general, Muste said he hopes the site helps students become more cognizant of their influence in the political system, while also helping them decide where they want their vote to count.Students are going to have to think carefully and have good judgment where their vote is going to have the most impact, Muste said.Aleisha Jacobson, Countmores chief organizing officer, said that students should decide to vote in the state where they feel they are more a part of the community.Its something you have to think about and be aware of, Jacobson said.According to the Countmore.org site, the states in which students votes have the most weight, or tipping point states, include Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida, among others. States with a margin of more than 10 percent in the 2004 election such as California, Arizona, and Illinois hold the least weight.For some UM students from crucial swing states, voting in Montana doesnt translate into less of an impact.Colorado native Josh Gibbs, a junior in nursing, believes that his vote in Montana may have a greater impact here than in his home state because of Montanas comparatively smaller population.Gibbs, an Obama supporter, said that he wasnt aware of Countmre or that his vote would theoretically have more weight in his home state than in Montana. Despite this, Gibbs said it wouldnt have affected his decision.I probably still wouldve voted in Montana because I think there is still a need for the Democratic vote, Gibbs said. I dont see that my vote counts more or less depending on the state I vote in.California resident Jennifer Brown, a junior studying elementary education, hails from a state in which her vote would have less impact than it would in the Montana elections, but she didnt meet the Oct. 6 deadline to register.Kelly Rudd, a freshman from Ohio studying pre-pharmacy, said that shes registered to vote in Montana only because of a misunderstanding of voter registration rules.Although shes still technically registered to vote in Ohio, she plans to vote in Montana.Jeff Greene, a UM professor of American government and public administration, believes that the site is innovative, but that some might get the wrong idea and vote in both states.Even if this does happen, Greene doesnt see it having a large effect on the outcome of the election.Lerner also acknowledges this possibility, but said that Countmore fully discourages this illegal action.For more information, visit either Countmore.org or Frontseat.org.