Patrick Rochelle: Don’t be an idiot: Institutionalize voting

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Patrick Rochelle

In Ancient Greece, the term “idiot” referred to a person who was uninvolved in public life. It was a sign of ignorance and a lack of education.

But contemporary society has a new term for those who don’t vote or participate in public life – they’re called young people.

My experience obtaining an absentee ballot this year was arduous to say the least – I requested a form to be able to request another form so that I could then request my actual ballot.

But there are many students who aren’t even registered to vote.

Voters 18 to 19 years of age only made up 17 percent of the actual voting population in 2008, according to Project Vote, a nonpartisan organization geared toward empowering underrepresented portions of the electorate.

There’s no doubt registering to vote is a confusing process, especially for college students who live away from home.

Each state has a different set of requirements and hoops a citizen must jump through. And this undoubtedly turns away people who might have otherwise cast their ballot.

The Washington Post reported last week that, as compared to the 2008 election, 50% fewer voters ages 18 to 30 said they were closely following this election’s political news. Just 63 percent of those individuals said they would certainly vote – down from 72 percent four years ago, according to the article.

Media Credit: Alicia Little | Cartoonist

The University should play a greater role in registering students to vote and encouraging them to cast their ballots on Election Day.

Other colleges and universities have found clever ways to maximize voter turnout on their campuses.

Northwestern University launched an initiative in 2011 called UVote, which integrates the voter registration process into school-wide functions such as course registration and freshman orientation. DePaul University, Shenandoah University, Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis have also joined in on the initiative.

It’s something the University should look into.

While GW is not your average political landscape, it is important that the University ensures that as many of its students are registered as possible. GW already has a relatively elaborate freshman orientation program. During the two to three days students are on campus, the University could use a program like UVote to encourage eligible students to register to vote.

Citizenship is clearly important to the University, or else they would not have included it as a tenet of the 10-year strategic plan draft released earlier this month.

“The ways in which individuals and organizations relate to the communities in which they reside help define democratic society.”

We assume that because of the high number of political science majors and the University’s location in D.C., everyone on campus is a political wonk and frothing at the mouth to cast a ballot Nov. 6. But we shouldn’t.

The Greeks weren’t right about everything. Even philosophers like Plato and Aristotle thought the Earth was the center of the universe.

But at least they knew an idiot when they saw one.

Patrick Rochelle, a senior majoring in English, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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