Here’s a fact for you: If you sleep in the District of Columbia for more than 183 nights of the year, you have to file income tax returns for the District, even if it’s not your “official” home. Here’s another fact: Local Georgetown residents have, in the past few years, attempted to remove the parking privileges of students, attempted to cut the number of unrelated people allowed to share an address to three and attempted to force the police to notify your parents if you’re at a party that gets broken up – even if you’re an adult.
The relationship between these two facts is a simple one: We all live here for most of the year, whether or not our voter cards say so, and the issues of the area have dramatic effects on the quality of our lives. By acknowledging Georgetown as our “home,” we can start to address the above issues, and the only way to do to this is to register to vote in the District of Columbia.
Campaign Georgetown is a group here on campus that focuses entirely on those issues I mentioned above, as well as others, and one of its major goals since its creation in 1996 has been to get students elected to serve as representatives on the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. There are three zoning regions out of seven on the ANC that incorporate students, one exclusively and two partially. The ANC was created to give area residents input into decisions that affect the community. We students are a large part of the community and therefore deserve representation as well. In November, Mike Glick (COL ’05), Mike Griffin (COL ’05) and Eric Lashner (COL ’05) (are running for three seats on the commission, and they can only represent us if there are enough students registered to defeat the anti-student activists in the community (who should be reminded that they choose to live here).
In Australia, where I attended high school, it is each citizen’s duty to vote, and people can be put in jail for not registering. While some of the Campaign Georgetown people sitting in Red Square all week might like the sound of that, ultimately we want you to want to register. Why? Well, for one thing, a large majority of Georgetown students do not return to their hometowns after graduation. We are here in this world-class city receiving an expensive private education, and with that education many of us will go into public service and many others into private enterprises in Washington and other major Eastern seaboard cities. To those considering public service, it looks hypocritical to finish Georgetown having spent four years registered to vote in a city you don’t live in.
Most students won’t vote absentee, so by failing to change registration you are effectively removing your voice from being heard at all, which is certainly not a commendable stance for a future politician to take. Also, even if you do vote absentee, you are unlikely to keep up with the local politics of Spring, Texas, or Chatham, N.J., (the two small American towns I’ve lived in before coming to Georgetown). Mayor Anthony Williams recently spoke to students on campus. Georgetown is one of a handful of universities in the country where students have the opportunity to meet and vote for (or against) a mayor people have actually heard of. We have no choice but to keep up with the local politics here, because they’re everywhere. Don’t just do it for the ikes and Eric; do it for yourself and your voice.
I am a registered D.C. citizen because I have no other home in the United States. My “home” is in the United Kingdom, where we are not allowed to vote, so my parents vote absentee in Spring, Texas. I was not yet 18 when we left Texas, so for me to vote there would be of questionable legality as well as certain “unnecessity” (which is, for your information, not a word, but should be). Unlike me, most of you have what can be the bane of choice. Certainly some parents would object to a change of voter registration, feeling that their “babies” would be moving on once and for all. Ask them if they can name one local council member in their district. Most of your parents undoubtedly cannot, but you have the chance to not only name, but personally know three. Voting here does not mean you have to spend your summers working at The Tombs or on Capitol Hill unless you want to. What it does mean is that you have the freedom to make of Washington, and more specifically Georgetown, as much of a home as you need it to be.
By the way, registering to vote is not difficult at all. All Campaign Georgetown members have forms with them to change (or simply create) your voter registration card, and at some point one of us will probably knock on your door and talk to you further. You have to register by Oct. 7 to vote in this year’s elections, so get the black ballpoint out and make a difference in the community you actually live in.
Adam Giblin is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service.