The Associated Students of Madison recently approved legislation that will allow an exception to the rules that prohibit door-to-door soliciting for voter registration in residence halls. This is absolutely the right move by the university to encourage voter participation and civic involvement from a young age. The university should continue to encourage students to vote and be involved in politics to develop a civic-minded, well-informed student body.
There is a need to spark students’ interests. The least likely demographic to vote is young adults. The blog Medialiteracycolloquim reported only 58 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are registered to vote, in comparison to 71 percent of the population as a whole. If we refuse to participate in the conversation, our voices don’t matter when decisions are being made. Because young people vote less than other demographics, our issues seldom come up. Higher education is often one of the first things on the chopping block when budget cuts come around. Lack of participation has a direct impact on policy, and when young people don’t participate, we often pin ourselves into a corner of frustration and under representation. Voter participation is the single most crucial part of our democracy.
I think it would be a fair assumption to say people who are active when they are young tend to be more informed voters when they get older. If you give the student body a sense of civic responsibility and a sense their decisions matter, it will likely inspire some people to follow politics who otherwise wouldn’t. That involvement leads to a better informed electorate, a cause we should all support.
ASM’s legislation is good because it facilitates this type of involvement. It provides an easy route for students who have just become old enough to get registered and vote. It will make all of our voices stronger.
Registration is, by law, nonpartisan — it is illegal to not register someone based on political grounds — and the legislation only applies to the Madison Student Vote Coalition, a non-partisan organization. While as a demographic youth, particularly in Madison, tend to lean to the left, the main purpose and outcome of this legislation will be to improve student participation, not aid the interests of any political party.
There were concerns raised over this legislation on the basis this is a compromise to students’ privacy. While I agree completely allowing door-to-door solicitation could be invasive, I feel that under this piece of legislation the students’ best interests are ultimately being served. It is not about invading privacy; it’s about strengthening our voice. In the future, ASM should avoid legislation that will lead to compromises in student privacy.
Voter participation plays a very important role in policy, and by not voting in large enough numbers, the youth is shooting itself in the foot. Encouraging participation by allowing groups to register students in the dorms is the right thing to do. In closing, encourage students to register because if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.
Spencer Lindsay ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.