University should do more to encourage voter participation

Many students and faculty members on Nov. 4 will be going to the polls to vote in one of the most hyped and anticipated elections in U.S. history. The voter turnout among young people and University students is expected to be the largest in recent history. This long and vigorous preamble to the elections has been fueled by the involvement of students and first-time voters, but the University cannot take any credit for the increased interest in the presidential election. The University of Minnesota has not done enough to encourage students to vote or get involved in the political process. Student-run organizations, as well as student volunteers and activists, drive the political discourse on campus. If the newest generation of voters on campus hadnâÄôt taken the initiative to become immersed in politics and policies, voter registration numbers among students at the University wouldnâÄôt be nearly as high. IâÄôll admit, the constant barrages of volunteers at each end of the Washington Avenue Bridge does get a bit annoying after the hundredth time being asked whether youâÄôre registered, but the reality is that these people are very helpful in encouraging and assisting first-time voters with the registration process. The University, on the other hand, has taken a lax and nonchalant stance on student voting. The attendance policy that does not excuse students from class in the name of voting is a perfect example. The University may be legitimately concerned about students using voting as an excuse to miss class, and administrators may believe that students should be able to find time to vote, considering that most polling locations are open for 13 hours. However, the University doesnâÄôt understand that many students will be involved in other activities related to voting on Election Day, including campaigns devoted to increasing student voting turnouts, as well as pushing last minute agendas for their parties. Stephanie Taylor, a member of several student organizations devoted to increasing voter turnout, feels that the voting policy is unfair and agrees that students should be doing more than just voting on Election Day. âÄúStudents should be out doing voting drives and other last-minute efforts [on Election Day],âÄù said Taylor. âÄúI think that itâÄôs important that this school tries to get students to participate in ways besides just going to the polls and voting. I think that, especially in this election, itâÄôs really important.âÄù The voting policy is not a productive voting initiative for students. Students who have full-time jobs or busy schedules may have no other time to vote than during class. The attendance policy sends a negative message about political involvement. The message that the University is sending to prospective voters is that going to your Tuesday afternoon lecture on Nov. 4 is more important that voting in and participating in the election. The administration should make an effort to assist students in the voting process, including offering information on the location of polling centers, as well as offering transportation to those places. If I have to miss my Tuesday afternoon history discussion in order to find time to vote, I will gladly sacrifice that potential knowledge I was scheduled to attain. The problem is that some students wonâÄôt. Unfortunately, they will be left out of an important political process that could shape the future of our country. Robert Downs welcomes comments at [email protected]