As the 2012 presidential election rapidly approaches, many college students across the country are preparing to vote for the first time. Or at least they should be. Many don’t for a variety of reasons ranging from being too busy to lacking interest in politics. It’s understandable why so many students feel like this. With an intensifying culture of extreme partisanship and attack ads everywhere we look, politics aren’t necessarily an attractive topic to become involved in, especially when we’re already overwhelmed with homework and other commitments.
As unpleasant as the political environment might be these days, we must acknowledge that not voting isn’t going to make it any more pleasant or solve any of the fundamental problems facing our country. True, voting alone won’t solve those problems either, but it’s an important part of working toward a solution. A common excuse of some college students who haven’t voted in recent elections has been that they forgot to register or didn’t know what the deadline was in their state. If you’re reading this, you won’t be able to make that excuse.
The voter registration deadline for Pennsylvania is 30 days before the election, in this case Oct. 9. The deadline in most other states is either the same or slightly later. College students may register at either their parents’ address or the address at which they currently live, whether it’s on or off campus. Students who register at their parents’ address may need to request an absentee ballot and will be able to vote for local officials in their hometown, while students who use the address of their college residence to register will be able to vote for local officials in Philadelphia. For out-of-state students, the decision of what address to register at will also determine what state-level offices appear on one’s ballot.
There are several online resources to help people register, including Rock the Vote. These sites will walk you through the process of filling out a voter registration form and mailing it where it needs to be mailed. A great resource for Drexel students looking to vote is Drexel Votes, an on-campus initiative to help students register and get informed for the upcoming election. Answers to the most common questions Drexel students have about the election can be found at drexel.edu/drexelvotes2012.
One important topic that Drexel Votes addresses is the voter ID law that Pennsylvania passed this year. Under the new law, Pennsylvania voters must show an acceptable form of photo ID at the polls in order to vote. The good news for all members of the Drexel community is that the DragonCard will be accepted for this purpose. Students who are new to the University this year should have received DragonCards marked “Valid through 2013” and will not need to take any further action to use their DragonCards at the polls. Anyone whose DragonCard is not marked “Valid through 2013” will need to get a validation sticker from the DragonCard Office on any of Drexel’s three Philadelphia campuses or any of the other locations listed on the Drexel Votes website.
Once you’re registered and have a valid photo ID (or have applied for an absentee ballot in your hometown), you’ll need to learn about the candidates on your ballot in order to make informed voting decisions. Drexel Votes provides links to several websites that provide nonpartisan information about the presidential candidates as well as people running for state and local offices. These sites, including votesmart.org, work very hard to provide information that is free of the bias found in the mainstream media.
The American political system has become so corrupt in recent years, and part of what allows politicians to get away with carrying out agendas that aren’t in the best interests of the people they represent is that so many voters don’t care enough to vote. Don’t be acquiescent. If you vote according to your values, chances are your vote will only have the potential to make things better for you.