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Voter registration deadline nears

Voting regulations keep some students from exercising right to vote

By Erica Horton
On September 7, 2012

  • Members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity register students to vote in the University Center lobby on Thursday afternoon. From left to right, James Bowman (senior, organizational leadership), D’Ernest A Rucker (junior, exercise and sports science), Eric Battle (junior, exercise science). photo By Chris Wieland | staff

As elections near, students across the country, including those at the University of Memphis, are hosting voter registration drives and information sessions to encourage the student vote.  
In 2008, approximately 131 million people voted in the presidential election, five million more than in the 2004 election.
People between the ages of 18-24 made up one million of the new voters in 2008, according to a July 2012 report by the US Census.
Josh Spaulding, communications manager for the Fair Election Legal Network and the Campus Vote Project in Washington, D.C., said it's important that everyone eligible uses their right to vote.
Some students in particular, he said, are new to voting or are not informed on how or where to vote.
"Our general goal is to get campuses as student-voter friendly as possible," he said. "Eighteen- to 29-year-olds make up one-fourth of the eligible vote."
Spaulding said that of the college students that registered to vote in 2008, 87 percent exercised that right at the polls.
Students who didn't vote in the 2008 elections said they did not know voter registration rules and deadlines, did not have proper ID for voting and registration, were confused on where to vote, did not have transportation to vote or dealt with unfriendly voter poll workers, according to the Campus Vote Project.
As of 2012, in order to vote in Tennessee, voters must present a state issued ID at the polls. Some of the acceptable forms include a current or expired driver's license with a picture, federal or state employee ID, a passport, a handgun carry permit or a U.S. military ID.
Though issued by a state institution, student IDs are not considered an acceptable form of identification for voting.
Thursday afternoon, members of the Kappa Beta chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. hosted a voter registration information table in the University Center where they passed out voter registration forms.
The voter registration deadline is Oct. 8 in Tennessee.
Ryun Jackson, senior political science major and member of Kappa Alpha Psi, said the organization hosts a voter registration initiative every year.
Jackson said it is students' civic duty to vote and voice their opinion and that the new law can turn people away from the polls and keep them from voting.
"The thing about it is that it's legislation, it's out there and it's on the books.  So, we must educate college students about that legislation so they will know about it when they go to the polls," he said.  "This is a pivotal election and a lot of the policies are going to greatly impact, in some form or fashion, college students."
Kristoffer Adams, criminal justice junior and assistant service chair for the U of M College Republicans, said the new voter ID laws would be a detriment to get people to vote.
"But at the same time, you don't want people voting that shouldn't be able to vote," he said. "You want to make sure you know exactly who everybody is when they're voting."
Student IDs, he said, are easy to duplicate and create, and state IDs are harder to fake.
The U of M is a 90 percent commuter school, and students must have a state-issued license to drive, he said.
Adams said the bigger problem is that students don't seem interested in voting right now.
"Students do not have as much power with the vote this election as they did in the last election," he said. "If they had it, Democrats and Republicans would be catering to students once more. Last time, they catered to them, they needed them to go vote. I think this time they're catering to the Latino population and women."
Adams said during the last election he remembers T-shirts, stickers and events telling people to "vote or die."
"They made it where it's cool to vote," he said. "This time around it's not the same. People are not prepared. I wonder how many people I go to school with will actually get out and vote."
The U of M College Democrats could not be reached for comment.
Laura Hoffman, coordinator of student organizations and programs and advisor for the Students Activities Council, said SAC and the Student Government Association are working together to host a series of events about voter registration for students during the last week in September.
More details about the events are being confirmed closer to date.
"I think the decisions being made by politicians that you have an opportunity to say who is making those decisions impact everything from taxes to tuition, assistance programs for financial aid," she said. "There are so many things being decided on right now, that students need to voice their support for people that they trust to make decisions on their behalf."
Students who need more information about registering to vote and the voting process can visit
Voter registration forms must be mailed or hand-delivered to your county's election commission office. Polls open on Nov. 6.

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