Montana Politics

So You Want Us to Vote?

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Every wonder why college students don’t vote? I sure don’t. Granted, it’s not that difficult to get an absentee ballot, but given the number of people who register to vote on the same day as the elections, it’s obvious that not being in town is a huge disadvantage. Also, since get-out-the-vote campaigns generally heat up right before the election, if those have any effect it is likely too late for their most intense drives to recruit anyone who would need an absentee ballot. And although some would say the difficulty involved with getting an absentee ballot is not adressed because people don’t want college students voting, the reason so many students need an absentee ballot at all is entirely coincidental, and thus correcting it shouldn’t step on too many toes (although it undoubtedly will).

The problem is that most high school seniors don’t turn 18 until later in the year than November; thus, to vote in their first elections, they need to vote from a college campus. Easy enough for those going to school in-state, but much more difficult for those who are out of state. And studies have shown fairly conclusivley that if you’ve just moved, you’re a great deal less likely to vote in the next election. So, the crop of students turning 18 isn’t able to vote until they’ve moved, an act that massively decreases their chances of voting. But why does it have to be this way? Given that the percentage of farmers these days is much lower than when the Constitution was being written, the seasonal neccesity of having elections in November is largely gone.

Thus, the solution – July elections. At that point, most soon-to-be college students will have turned 18, but will not have left yet. Why not? It will have a minimal effect on every other group (although it will come on the heels of patriotic 4th of July fervor), and it will allow college students to vote in the more conventional, go-to-the-polls method that they’ll likely be using if they vote as adults. Other, more coincidental effects will also take effect – In the coldest parts of the country, there is less chance of snow that makes roads worse and thus decreases turnout, in many warmer areas it’s less likely to be raining (which can reduce turnout). And all that, not even considering that July elections would be less likely to conflict with popular television shows.

How would one put this into effect? It would be a hassle, granted, to change the Constitution in a couple places, but not that controversial. For that matter, put it on July 4th, call it Independence Voting Day. It’ll go through in a breeze. Then, have a transition period where there will be two elections – one in July, one in November, with the ballots still all counted in November. In fact, you could even keep this system going permanently. If not, this could be done for a year, and then discontinued in favor of July Elections. Then, college-students-to-be would be voting in their homes, in the presence of their friends and family, and without the hassle of absentee ballots. They would be voting in good weather amidst patriotic spirit; vote in the afternoon, shoot off fireworks at night. It’d be a grand old time, and I dare say there’d be a few more college students voting. (And trust me, George W. Bush would not be president if more college students had been voting in 2000).

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The Polish Wolf

2 Comments

  • I don’t know; consider that most seniors in highschool are within that demographic. Also consider that July elections would facilitate easier voting for all college students who come home over the summer. According to the census, there are about 15 million college students. (You could probably figure, then, 5 million 18-year-olds, perhaps 3 million of whom are in college.) Point is, if you could increase college student voting rates, that’s potentially millions more votes, the majority of them liberal leaning.

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