U gives students voter-registration information

Many universities ignore federal requirements to give students voter registration information.

Kari Petrie

Registering students to vote is an important part of educating them to be U.S. citizens, and the University is doing its part to spread the knowledge, officials said Monday.

“Any role the University can play in getting students to vote is encouraging,” political science professor and analyst Larry Jacobs said.

Nearly one-third of 249 colleges and universities do not comply with a federal requirement to provide students with voter registration information 120 days before local registration deadlines, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education study released Monday.

The study, conducted by the Chronicle and the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, found that 75 percent of public institutions and 56 percent of private institutions complied with the amendment to the Higher Education Act.

The University is exempt from the law because Minnesota law allows voters to register the day of the election, Mike Dean, grassroots coordinator for the University’s Legislative Network, said.

Still, the University has taken strides to get voting information out to its students, he said.

“What we’ve been doing goes way beyond what the act states,” Dean said.

University officials handed out information to students living in residence halls. They also are registering students at Coffman Union and plan to send a campuswide e-mail with voting information at the end of the month, he said.

“One of the basic tenets of democracy is voting, and if people aren’t voting, they aren’t really taking part in the democratic process,” he said.

University President Bob Bruininks also appears in several public service announcements with Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, urging students to vote, Dean said.

The survey also showed that institutions with four-year undergraduate programs were less likely to provide information than two-year colleges.

Jacobs said registration is a hurdle that can get in the way of people voting. By making it easy to access the information, the University could help ease that burden, he said.

But, Jacobs said, he is suspicious of whether young voters will show up on Election Day.

“(Former Democratic presidential candidate) Howard Dean based his campaign on getting strong youth voter turnout,” Jacobs said. “He was sorely disappointed.”

Jacobs compared the power of the youth vote to a mirage.

“From a distance, it looks fantastic,” he said. “But come Election Day, the mirage disappears.”