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Last year, President Amy Gutmann took part in the midterm elections.

Photo: Thomas Munson

Like many Philadelphia institutions, Penn will be filled with voting booths next month on Election Day.

Voter turnout among Penn students is consistently poor: An approximate 1,060 people turned out to Penn’s polling stations for the gubernatorial election last fall, down from 1,460 in the 2010 midterm election and 1,521 in 2006. With this in mind, students and staff make efforts to bring people to the polls.

This year’s Philadelphia elections will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3, and the voter registration deadline passed earlier this month. In addition to a number of local city positions, this year’s ballot includes several candidates for the Pennsylvania state judiciary and five for Mayor of Philadelphia.

Penn campus groups have traditionally played an active role in getting Penn students to vote. In September 2014, the Penn Democrats and Penn College Republicans jointly launched a voter registration drive with Hillel and other campus groups as part of an initiative called “Bridging The Gap: Voter Registration Kickoff.”

Penn also commemorated National Voter Registration Day, which fell this year on Sept. 22. The Office of Government and Community Affairs, which maintains a page on its website about voter registration in Philadelphia, held an information session about voter registration in Houston. Universities are required to distribute voting registration information since the National Voter Registration Act was expanded with a new act in 1998.

The difficulty of getting to a daytime polling place has long been seen as an obstacle to voting. Fortunately, Penn students registered to vote in Philadelphia won’t have to go very far on Election Day. Typically, many of West Philadelphia’s polling places are on Penn’s campus. According to data from the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, for example, residents of the electoral district containing the Quadrangle vote at Houston Hall.

Likewise, Harrison and Harnwell College Houses serve as polling places for much of Penn’s campus west of 38th Street, an area which includes the high rises as well as DuBois and Gregory College Houses. Hill House similarly serves most of the area between 36th Street and the Schuylkill River.

Those living around Pine Street and Baltimore Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets vote at Penn’s Civic House, while those directly north between Pine and Walnut vote at the nearby Walnut Street West branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Students living in the Radian, Domus and Hamilton Court fall in the vast division served by Penn’s Center for Rehabilitation and Care at 36th and Chestnut streets.

Pennsylvania state law allows out-of-state Penn students to register in both their home state and Pennsylvania, as long as they choose one location to actually vote in. This gives students additional flexibility in voting, according to the Office of Government and Community Affairs.

“You can decide whether your vote will make a larger impact if you vote in the location of your student domicile or if you vote in your previous permanent residence,” the OGCA website states.

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