As the deadline for voter registration in this year?s presidential election approaches, only 17 percent of the 249 U.S. universities surveyed are in strict compliance with the Higher Education Act of 1998, which states that colleges and universities receiving federal funds must make a ?good faith effort? to make registration materials available to students.
According to David King, professor of public policy at Harvard University and a contributor to the survey, it is the role of universities to not only register students near election time, but throughout the year.
It needs to be a commitment for the university every year to register voters, King said. Every freshman needs to be registered.?Dorena Knepper, CSUN?s director of governmental affairs, said the university has made every effort to get registration forms out to students. This includes about 4,000 voter registration forms placed in freshman orientation packets, about 4,000 forms included when students pick up their caps and gowns for the years commencement activities, and forms placed in areas with high concentrations of students, including the Matador Bookstore, dorms and the Student Services Building.
The right to vote is one of the most important things to exercise, Knepper said. The license to complain is issued the day you register to vote.CSUN is the only CSU that has its own precinct set up on campus, Knepper said. On Nov. 2, a pollingCTI station will be set up in the Fernandeno Room in the Satellite Student Union to serve students living on campus. She said that for the 2000 presidential election, she registered one student to vote, but in preparing for this years election, she has already registered more than 400 students.One of the major issues raised recently for students involves out-of-state or out-of-county voters and whether they must vote in their hometown, or where they are attending school.In Waller County, Texas, District Attorney Oliver Kitzman resigned after he allegedly tried to prevent students at Prairie View A’M University from voting.Kitzman allegedly told students who were not from the county that they were ineligible to vote there. This sparked protest from the campus community and raised the issue as to whether students are able to vote in the community where they are attending school.Nizel Redmond, student body president at Prairie View A’M, said that Kitzman?s goal was to discourage students from registering to vote, which perpetuated students? views that politicians do not care about them or the issues that affect them.?Politicians are talking more than walking,? Redmond said. ?Maybe a handful of politicians care, but if they cared, their faces would be more visible, and we would recognize them. The smaller populations are the most important votes.?Redmond said that if politicians ignore students, students will feel that politicians do not care about them and their votes.According to Kathy Tacawy, spokesperson for the L.A. County Registrar/Recorder County Clerk?s Office, it is up to students whether they want to vote by absentee ballot, or register in the county where they are attending school. Oftentimes, she said, students might choose to vote by absentee ballot.?In essence, it is a convenience for them,? Tacawy said. ?It is an extra step, but they don?t have to leave their home(s).?More than just registering to vote, Leinaala Ley, program coordinator for Rock the Vote, a national campaign designed to get young people to the polls, said the next goal is to get students who have registered to actually go out and vote on Election Day. She said they are increasing their public service announcements, going door-to-door to encourage voting, e-mailing and text messaging registered voters.?We?ve passed (registering) one million (young people),? Ley said. ?That is a huge spike. It is evidence that students will be voting in large numbers (during this election).?Ley said students in this election are reacting to the issues of rising costs in education and the military needs in Iraq. She said students are starting to see that their voices matter.With such a close election, students feel they can influence the outcome, Knepper said.?(In the past) students didn?t see themselves as having an impact,? Knepper said. ?Students tend to be more idealistic than the population at large. Students feel they can make a difference.?The survey was administered through the Harvard University Institute of Politics and The Chronicle of Higher E