Students Get Politically Engaged through a National Voter Registration Day Drive

STORY BY CORIE LYNN

All citizens of the United States, ages eighteen and older, have the right to vote. Despite this, not every citizen does vote or is even registered to do so.

To combat this, September 25 serves as National Voter Registration Day. Across the country, adults are encouraged to register to vote if they weren’t previously.

Fort Hays State University participated in this holiday through the American Democracy Project.

The student members of the organization set up a table in the Memorial Union where student, faculty, and staff could take a few minutes to register.

At the table, members of the ADP were ready with tablets and computers to access the online voter registration forms.

“One of the guys who’s running for Secretary of State, Brian McClendon, and his team actually created this really great website [called] KSVotes,” said American Democracy Project co-director Kaytee Weisley.

Weisley went on to explain that in order to register through the website, all that is needed is one’s driver’s license and about three minutes to fill the online form.

“What you do is you put in some general information and it checks to see if you’re registered so if you’re not sure, you can double-check that. You can also update your information if you’ve moved or apply for an advanced ballot,” said Weisley.

For students attending FHSU who are unable to return home for the November 6 election, applying for an advanced ballot is one way to continue to participate.

However, there are opportunities for political participation besides voting.

“One great way to get involved in this election season is to volunteer for campaigns you’re passionate about and we can certainly connect people with those if they want to,” said Weisley, “They can email us at adp@fhsu.edu.”

Regardless of the method used to participate, what matters is the involvement, especially when considering today’s political landscape. This is something that Weisley stressed.

“It’s a really important midterm election for us. It’s really going to change the way Kansas goes in the future,” she said.

Even so, the majority of young Americans do not participate in elections.

Pamphlets provided by the ADP at the registration drive gave statistics on voter participation by age. One of which stated that only “[Forty-six percent] of eligible young voters participated in the 2016 election,” while “[Seventy-two percent] of eligible voters over 71 years old participated in the 2016 election.”

According to the same pamphlet, the total population of “eligible young voters” at the time of the election was 69.2 million while the population of “eligible voters over 71” was only 28 million. This leaves a significant number of the total voting population underrepresented in their government.

Voter Registration Day and registration drives throughout the year remain necessary to right this imbalance. Those who participate in such drives understand this and the importance of everyone’s voice being heard.

“Everyone’s vote really does matter,” said Kaityln Pell, who was assisting at the table as well as registering that day, “even if you think it doesn’t.”

Jenna Klein, another student who was registering, agreed with Pell.

“Everyone’s vote matters because if you want to get the general population’s opinion, you need it from the general population and not just a portion [of it.],” said Klein.

For those who are seeking to become more involved in politics through voting like Pell and Klein, registration is available through KSVotes or at Forsyth Library on October 5 and 6.

Political engagement does not end with registration. Whether it is through the American Democracy Project or through voting, it is important for everyone to make their voices in government heard.

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