Most students signed up to vote

About 96 percent of students are registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election and 80 percent have applied for an absentee ballot, GW Votes organizers said last week.

The organization calculated registration statistics from a series of straw polls of students and by talking to 1,500 students living in residence halls.

GW Votes, the Student Association-sponsored voting initiative, is striving to register 100 percent of the student population to vote and ensure that all students receive their absentee ballots. Twenty student organizations are involved with GW Votes and register students to vote by tabling in the Marvin Center weekly and going door to door in residence halls.

In the organization’s last “dorm storm,” volunteers registered about 60 to 70 students to receive their absentee ballots, GW Votes director Sean White said. The organization, which has helped 600 to 700 students get absentee ballots, kicked off its efforts in November 2003 with the participation of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.

While GW Votes initially started as a voting registration drive, the high percentage of registered student voters led the organization to change its focus to absentee ballots. Ninety percent of freshmen were already registered to vote when they came to campus, White said.

“The harder process, in my opinion, is getting the absentee ballot actually in the student’s hands,” White said.

Junior Dior Toney said he has not yet completed his absentee ballot request.

“I got the paperwork but have not sent it in,” Toney said. “My mom is stressing me too.”

Each county has different ballot deadlines, but most require voters to send in ballot request forms a week before the Nov. 2 election. All ballots must be postmarked or faxed before or on Election Day.

GW Votes will stamp and mail in absentee ballot requests soon after they are completed to ensure that students receive their ballots on time. Voters can drop off their forms in Marvin Center Room 424, according to the organization’s Web site.

“If they give it to us … we assure that it will be in the mail the next day,” White said.

Senior Dan Tannebaum said he is pleased that the University is encouraging political participation.

“It’s about time that young people realized their vote does count,” Tannebaum said. “The emphasis on providing students with absentee ballots is a noble effort – it’s confusing, after all. These organizations simplify the effort.”

Justin Neidig, head of public relations for the College Republicans, said the voting initiative has succeeded in being a non-partisan effort.

“GW Votes has been a great venue for both the College Republicans and College Democrats,” Neidig said. “Everyone will agree that registering students to vote is paramount.”

As the election approaches, the challenge will be to ensure that students actually vote. Students should expect to see volunteers reminding passersby in Kogan Plaza or the Marvin Center about registering to vote and applying for absentee ballots.

Senior Diane Nosseir said, “I have definitely been attacked by people trying to get people registered to vote and apply for my absentee ballot. They always seem disappointed that I have already registered.”

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