A sophomore is organizing volunteers to register GW students this week to vote in the District’s spring primary elections.
Patrick Kennedy, president of GW’s chapter of DC Students Speak – a coalition of college students across the city who lobby for a voice in local politics – said volunteers will man high-traffic campus areas like Kogan Plaza and H Street from Feb. 27 to March 2 to register students.
“There are so many opportunities to make your voice heard and your voice count in this city, but you have to be registered to vote,” Kennedy said.
Seats on the D.C. Council as well as for the District’s representatives in Congress are up for grabs. The cutoff date for registration to vote in the April 3 primary is March 5.
Kennedy said the group also plans to approach students who are registered to vote in their home states and thus might be more difficult to persuade – especially if a student’s home state is particularly influential in presidential elections. Students affiliated with the Republican Party could have more sway if they register to vote in the heavily Democratic city, Kennedy said.
He hopes to register at least 100 to 150 students at GW to vote in the District while also increasing awareness for his organization.
About 15,500 voters from 18 to 22 years of age are registered in the District, Karen Brooks, registrar of votes for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, said. Of that group, only 97 individuals are registered to vote in Ward 2A – the precinct of Ward 2 that GW falls under.
But Brooks said just 13 ballots in total were lodged by individuals between the ages of 18 and 22 during D.C.’s 2008 or 2010 elections. Not a single vote came from individuals living in Ward 2A.
“It’s not a lack of interest in politics, it’s a lack of engagement and awareness in the politics of the District,” Kennedy said, referring to the 2008 and 2010 turnouts.
DC Students Speak also plans to host drives at Georgetown, American, Catholic, Howard and Trinity-Washington Universities in hopes of registering at least 1,000 students in total through volunteers patrolling the campuses with clipboards and registration forms.
The aim, Kennedy said, is not merely to register students but to get youth involved in District politics.
“Politicians are generally interested in re-election, so they are going to go for the largest voting constituency,” he said, noting that he considers the constituency of middle-aged adult voters to be the largest.
Through voting, students could lobby their interests in local legislation, Kennedy said. Last February, the D.C. Council passed a noise ordinance outlawing “unreasonably loud noise” between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that D.C. Students Speak criticized for targeting youth.
Katherine Stocks, deputy campaign manager for Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who is running for re-election unopposed this year, said the campaign has worked to gain votes from every demographic, including students. She cited a registration drive at a neighborhood block party at the Eye Street Mall in October and an upcoming speaking event at Georgetown.
“It’s always about voter registration with us, and students are a part of that,” Stocks said.
This article appeared in the February 27, 2012 issue of the Hatchet.