More Bang for Your Ballot
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 01:09
Voter registration has been a major storyline this election cycle, with both campaigns giving special attention to unregistered college students. The youth vote could be a deciding factor this year, and it is in Georgetown students’ best interests to register and vote absentee from their home states, rather than in the District of Columbia.
This decision should not be taken lightly. Voting is a bedrock civic duty, and a student ought to take into account a variety of factors when choosing where to register, including emotional attachment to one’s home state and the influence of laws and leaders here versus elsewhere. However, the bottom line for us is that this year’s elections do not provide sufficient reason to register in D.C.
The District is known for being unfavorable to voters: It has no U.S. senators or voting members in the House of Representatives, and it is constitutionally limited in its number of votes in the Electoral College. It’s no battleground, either, with an overwhelming Democratic base that gave President Obama 92 percent of the vote in 2008.
To its credit, D.C. does a good job of accommodating student registration. One must have resided in the District for just 30 days prior to an election to qualify to vote, and registration is allowed even on Election Day. However, registering in D.C. strips away residency back home. Restoring a registration can take longer in other locales and — of particular concern to some Georgetown students — complicates a decision to later run for elected office.
The D.C. government has also notoriously underappreciated college students, due, at least in part, to their minimal voting influence. Groups such as D.C. Students Speak have argued that getting more students to register and vote in D.C. would give them a greater voice in local politics.
In fairness to these advocates, it’s evident that poor student turnout in D.C. has been problematic. When Jake Sticka (COL ’13) was elected in 2010 to serve on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, he received a grand total of nine votes. While it’s nice to have student representation in this group, Sticka’s election provided nothing close to a mandate.
That said — and even in light of the fact that the ANC has a second student seat up for grabs this year — Georgetown students would get more out of their ballot by voting in home-state elections. The university’s status as the largest private employer in the District gives it clout in city politics without a student voting force behind it. There are too many tight races this year with high stakes at the state and federal levels for students to justify forfeiting that vote.
Some will mock the importance of an individual’s vote in our electoral system; others recognize that every vote can make a difference. In 2000, George W. Bush won Florida, and subsequently the presidency, by 537 votes. There are approximately 250 current Georgetown undergraduates from Florida and presumably hundreds more at the other D.C. colleges. You never know beforehand if voting will make a difference, but you never know that it won’t, either.
Voting rights in the District are a serious concern, and we hope that Congress will soon address the undemocratic disenfranchisement of this city. In the meantime, Georgetown students would be misguided to diminish their voice by voting here, rather than joining the battle back home in what is such a meaningful election for the future of our country.