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Voter registration is an unnecessary hurdle for college students

Voter registration is an unnecessary hurdle for college students

Voter registration is an unnecessary hurdle for college students
October 27
12:00 2022

Voter registration booths across campus have been helpful resources for those looking to exercise their right to vote in the November midterms. But why are they necessary?

In Texas, citizens must register to vote 30 days before Election Day. This year, the registration deadline was Oct. 11. Hopefully you have registered already, if not, you can’t vote. Each state’s voter registration system is different, and Texas is among 11 states with the earliest deadline to register, according to CNN.

Other states have significantly less stressful cutoffs. You can register to vote on Election Day in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington. North Dakota does not even require citizens to register before voting. More than half of all countries require compulsory voter registration.

In many of these countries, such as Chile, Hungary and the Netherlands, registration is automatically completed through government records. In Australia, eligible voters who fail to register to vote are in violation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918 and are subject to a fine. The Washington Post found countries with some form of automatic voter registration had more complete and more accurate voter registration information.

Going as far as fining people for not registering to vote may be a bit on the harsh side — just as we have the right to vote, we have the right not to vote. Yet, because not everyone is politically focused in the months leading up to the election, we should do our best to make it easy for eligible voters to cast their ballots on Election Day.

This issue plays a significant role in the college community. Many college students are first-time voters who are away from home. On top of busy schedules, challenging classes and navigating adulthood, students are expected to register to vote or change their voting address if they have moved counties or states.

Anyone who has taken college classes knows how easy it is to procrastinate, and elections don’t exactly come with a syllabus. Naturally, many citizens wait until near the deadline to figure out how to register to vote. This last-minute scramble leaves little time to rectify any issues that may arise in the registration process.

To complicate things further, some states only allow registration by paper ballot, which can lead to many issues. Mississippi State researcher Thessalia Merivaki found  that paper registration ballots in Florida led to numerous errors, causing applications to be placed on hold or denied. She found that on-hold applications disproportionately impacted minorities, college students and 16 to 17-year-olds eligible to pre-register to vote.

Black citizens in Miami-Dade County were 46.1 percent more likely than their white counterparts to be left out of the voter roll due to manual errors. Merivaki’s research recommends electronic registration to minimize errors.

With an abundance of technology resources available in the modern age, there should be digital forms and extensive records of who is eligible to vote. On Election Day, a simple cross-reference and ID should suffice as a solid form of voter security.

Election integrity has been a prevalent debate since efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. While much of this discourse was a frivolous attempt to undermine American democracy, election integrity is a nonpartisan issue everyone should want to uphold.

Automatic voter registration does not lead to increased voter fraud. In fact, voter fraud is a rare issue that is greatly eclipsed by the need for easy access to voting. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found only 31 credible instances of voter impersonation out of more than one billion cast ballots between 2000 and 2014.

All states have measures to prevent voters from voting twice. Voting systems in many states alert election officials if a mail-in ballot has been requested or received, allowing poll workers to verify each person only votes once. Most instances of double-voting attempts don’t seem to be nefarious, but rather, cases of people forgetting they had already mailed in their vote. These occurrences are easily resolved.

FiveThirtyEight tracked what happened when voters were automatically registered to vote upon visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles in eight states. Automatic voter registration led to a boost in voter participation, although the data does not account for who would have registered to vote on their own without DMV assistance.

This system is not perfect. Implementation of automatic voter registration in California by untrained DMV workers led to over 23,000 errors in voter registration, such as incorrect party, incorrect language preference and wrongly registering noncitizens.

Therefore, it is important to properly train employees tasked with this type of voter registration. It would be better if voters were registered systematically, rather than being opted in at government buildings like the DMV.

Streamlining the voting process is crucial not just for college students, but for all Americans who want their voices to be heard.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Jack Moraglia

Jack Moraglia

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