Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Congress Pushes to Bring Youth to the Polls

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Congress is looking for new ways to bring college students to the ballot box this November.

The House of Representatives’ Committee on House Administration, along with several invited witnesses, discussed yesterday afternoon several proposed legislative solutions that could ensure that students are able to register to vote and cast their ballot with ease.

From when 18- to 21-year-olds gained the right to vote in 1972 to the year 2000, the voter turn out rate in this age group declined by 16 percent. But in the last presidential election in 2004, youth voters reversed this trend, increasing participation rates by 11 percent.

“With the excitement surrounding upcoming election, particularly around young Americans who are voting for president for the first time, we must do everything that we can to encourage participation in the elections process,” Ranking Member Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) said.

The hearing tackled four main issues: residency and photo identification requirements, shortage of voting machines on voting day, lack of accessible information about the registration and the absentee ballot process, and the dissemination of inaccurate and misleading information to deter students from registering in the state of their institution.

Witnesses at the hearing included Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), local election officials, the president of Oberlin College and the executive director for the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, leaders from voting advocate programs, as well as students from the University of Pennsylvania and American University.

Schakowsky introduced the Student Voter Act of 2008 this past July, requiring all federally funded universities to offer voter registration to their students during registration for classes.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced sister legislation in the Senate.

“[Schakowsky] wants to make sure that anybody that is eligible and wants to vote can vote,” Schakowsky’s press secretary Peter Karafotas said. “We want to educate young voters and make sure that come Election Day, when they show up at the polls, they can vote.”

“Studies show that those who have trouble voting in their first election will be less likely to vote in the future,” Committee Chairman Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) said.

With fewer than 40 days remaining until the election, voter registration has been at the forefront of campus life issues. The Georgetown University College Republicans and Georgetown University College Democrats have formed a bipartisan coalition, GUVotes, to register as many students as possible and inform students how to apply for absentee ballots. So far, they have registered over 100 new voters.

“These efforts have been hugely successful, and we are all very proud of all the members of both GUCR and GUCD that have made it possible,” GUCR chair Ellen Dargie (COL ’10) said.

Alex Armstrong (COL ’09), press secretary of GUCD, said GUVotes emphasizes the importance of voter registration.

“We have an ambitious plan to make sure that people get their ballots. We are in the process of knocking on every door on campus, canvassing the student body and getting absentee ballots to those who need them,” he said. “In an election as close as this one is, we know that each vote is important.”

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