People in their late teens and early 20s don’t have the best track record when it comes to voting. That’s why around election time, voter registration volunteers show up on college campuses, encouraging students to fill out their registration cards. The registration deadline has passed, but now it’s up to students to follow through and vote.
Students especially tend to not vote “down the ballot,” meaning they vote for president but not for key local races, but student voters living close to campus will want to pay attention to Phil Barnhart in District 11, Paul Holvey in District 8 and Nancy Nathanson in District 13, all state representatives in districts surrounding UO. Also of interest is longtime City Councilor Betty Taylor vs. Juan Carlos Valle in a race for southeast Eugene’s Ward 2.
Merriam Weatherhead, president of the Associated Students of Lane Community College, says she wants to make a positive change at LCC through voter recruitment.
“The moment we don’t vote is when we lose our voices in the political system,” Weatherhead says. “We’ve seen tuition increases year after year, and I think that students see registration and voting as a way to be more involved than in the past. If we don’t vote, we’re contributing to our tuition going up.”
In the last presidential election, voter turnout in the 18-to-24 age group was at 49 percent, the lowest percentage of all the age groups in 2008. With LCC’s voter recruitment efforts this year, the registered LCC student population now surpasses the average.
Weatherhead says that 6,886 students were registered to vote at LCC, comprising more than half of the on-campus student body. Calling it the “single largest voter registration campaign ever” for LCC, Weatherhead says registration this year is an improvement over two years ago, when less than 4,000 students were registered.
The UO saw a record-breaking year as well, with more than 9,000 students registered. Greg McAteer, legislative director for Associated Students of the University of Oregon, says ASUO far surpassed their initial goal of registering 6,000 students. Starting in the summer, ASUO volunteers, along with volunteers with the Vote OR Vote Campaign, gave classroom speeches and recruited voters off the sidewalk.
McAteer says that while registration is important, the next step is being informed.
“Read up, do some literature searching and make sure you understand the language on ballots,” McAteer says. “Educate yourself — it’s your obligation.”