A Few Thoughts on Voting

University of Michigan students should register and vote in Ann Arbor whether they are from Michigan or any other state. The deadline to register to vote in Michigan is October 4th.

Why? First, voting is your right as an American citizen. If you think you might be registered in Michigan somewhere else, register again, there’s a space on the form for you to note any previous registrations, and the city clerk will sort it out. There is no national database for voting so you will not be caught if they make a mistake. Simply register and vote once! Second, if you are registered in Ann Arbor, you’ll be more likely to vote: your nearest voting location may be as close as your dorm! Voting precincts include South Quad, the Union, East Quad, and Bursley. To register to vote, see if you are already registered, or find out where to vote see the State of Michigan’s Publius.org or contact the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office.

If you have a special reason to vote from home, request an absentee ballot now. People for the American Way has posted an online student voting guide where you can compare states’ deadlines, requirements, see whether they have close senate or presidential races, and even register to vote online.

UPDATE: The ACLU of Michigan has posted on their website a useful pamphlet – “Student Voting Rights in Michigan”, and also this Michigan Absentee Ballot Application. Registered in Ann Arbor but can’t vote there? Download the Ann Arbor Absentee Ballot Application.

This week’s Chronicle of Higher Education (website is by subscription only, U-M students can read it here) has two interesting stories about voting on college campuses. That publication concluded more than half of the colleges and universities they surveyed were following a federal law that requires they take steps to help their students register to vote. The federal Higher Education Act requires that “colleges and universities to request a sufficient number of voter registration forms for the entire campus 120 days before an election’s registration deadline. The law also requires schools to distribute those forms to each enrolled student.”

The study, conducted by the Chronicle and Harvard University, concluded that “Nearly 17 percent of schools surveyed report meeting the Act’s strict requirements. In addition, nearly 49 percent of the schools surveyed meet the “spirit” of the law by making paper voter registration materials readily available on campus and hosting an on-campus voter registration drives.” The study noted many schools had come up with creative ways to encourage students to vote:

Many schools have come up with extremely creative methods of encouraging voter registration. For example, Purdue University includes a section on voter registration with fee statements mailed to every student. At San Francisco State University, every student receives an e-mail from the school President encouraging him/her to register to vote. The University of New Hampshire provides voter information to incoming students and their parents during orientation. The President and key student leaders at Ithaca College hold a “Parade to the Polls” on Election Day. At Dickinson College’s fall Ben and Jerry’s ice cream night this fall, the admission ticket is a student’s sealed absentee ballot, which the school will post and mail for the student, or his/her voter registration card.

At Michigan, MSA’s Voice Your Vote commission is the most active of a wide variety of voter registration and education efforts taking place.

> See my voting post from September 2003: Democracy 101

Author: Rob