While not everyone knows that Oct. 6 marks the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania, Penn’s political community is gearing up to let you know about it — and make sure that you’re registered.
In anticipation for the midterm elections, Penn has a jam-packed schedule for National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, Sept. 23. Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs is teaming up with Penn Leads the Vote to hold a voter registration drive on Locust Walk and voter information sessions throughout the day.
“Since we do such a big push here on our campus at NSO and earlier in the semester with registration, this will be a reminder to students who have already registered to prepare for election,” said Dawn Maglicco Deitch, executive director of Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs.
Under the Higher Education Act of 1998, universities and colleges have an obligation to distribute voter registration information. Student-led groups are also enthusiastically joining the effort.
“Even though we are the pinnacle of democracy, we have a real problem with voter turnout,” said Grayson Sessa, executive director of College Republicans, who on Tuesday are co-hosting a “Voter Registration Kickoff” with Penn Democrats, Penn Hillel, Penn NAACP, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and UMOJA to inform students about voter registration and its historical importance.
“We’re hoping our efforts translate to a strong Penn push in this election and we’re looking forward to having so many engaged people on board,” Penn Democrats Outreach Director Ray Clark said in an email.
Increasing voter turnout is an issue that Penn Dems and College Republicans wholeheartedly agree on.
“No matter what, as a country, we want to get that voter turnout percentage up,” added Sessa,“because otherwise it is embarrassing, and decisions aren’t reflected by the true population.”
Across college campuses nationwide, voter registration has become an important effort, with National Voter Registration Day acting as an annual registration blitz.
“It’s a project to really focus on student issues for voting as well as helping campus administrators work with students to provide the information they need as a campus,” said Kristen Muthig, communications and policy manager for Fair Elections Legal Network , who helps oversee the Campus Vote Project that annually distributes to voter registration information to campuses in all 50 states.
“Especially right now, there are a lot of issues that students should be interested in that candidates on the ballot will have a direct impact on — things like student loans, student debt, the rise of the cost of tuition in some cases and issues like the environment and the economy,” Muthig added.
Penn has a successful history in getting out the vote on campus. According to Penn Leads the Vote’s website, increased get-out-the-vote tactics in 2004 led to a 280 percent increase in campus voting turnout. In 2008, a remarkable 89.6 percent of on-campus registered voters actually voted.
While Penn may be making strides in voter turnout, the United States hasn’t been as quick to improve. In the 2012 election, voter turnout of the voting-eligible population stood slightly over 58 percent.
“I am still in awe about the 84 percent turnout the other day in Scotland, and India had an election earlier this year with high 60 percent voter turnout,” Maglicco Deitch added. “This isn’t about candidates or ideologies or anything like that. It is about every young person understanding their right to participate in our democracy, and I wish everyone could turnout.”
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