Voter Registration Drive Kicks off Semester Start
By Robert J. Hughes
JAN. 18, 2008-- First-time voters will be able to pre-register to vote at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Jan. 28-30 in preparation for Tuesday, Feb. 19 when Wisconsin will hold primary elections for the U.S. presidency as well as city, town, school board, county board and judicial offices.
Registration deputies will be in the Falls Room of the University Center Jan. 28 - 29 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Jan. 30 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"The primaries will be a great time to vote for who represents you the most," says Ben Plunkett, a member of a voter registration initiative, River Falls Votes, and a student at UWRF. "Even if that person does not succeed in the primaries there will be a good chance it will affect policy decisions."
There will be an information program in each residence hall on Jan. 28 and 29 and there is a new aspect of the River Falls Votes initiative for students who live on campus. Resident assistants and any interested students can receive the training to become special deputies to assist with event at two one-hour training sessions on Friday, Jan. 25 at 11:15 a.m. and Monday, Jan. 28 at 9 a.m.
For many UWRF students this will be the first opportunity to participate in the electoral process. To be an eligible voter in Wisconsin a person must be 18 years of age on or before Election Day and have resided in the district or ward for 10 days before the election.
Dorm rooms are legal residencies for voting purposes, and voting in Wisconsin does not affect tuition reciprocity for students who pay out of state tuition. In addition to the registration being done by River Falls Votes, voters can register at the city clerks office up to the day of the election. Voting pre-registration will be especially important this year as the campus polling location will be in the Falls Room on the lower level of the University Center, a much smaller location than in past years.
The campus has a growing tradition of civic involvement, say organizers. In the 2004 and 2006 elections, UWRF has had record student voter turnout. The UWRF campus received support from national organizations such as the New Voter Project and the American Democracy Project as well as the local organization, River Falls Votes.
River Falls Votes is now solely working with the Legislative Affairs Committee of the UWRF Student Senate to head up the drive to get as many students registered to vote for the primaries as possible.
Chancellor Don Betz endorses the River Falls Votes project. "Increasing voter participation relates to the core mission of the university directly, in that we are pledged to graduate engaged citizens and leaders," says Betz. "Part of this responsibility is to prepare undergraduates for responsible political and civic engagement."
Organizers say the benefits of voter pre-registration including reduced waiting times, thus increasing voter turnout. Another benefit from pre-registration is to speed up the process if someone is a new voter, a new River Falls resident or has had an address change since the last time they registered to vote.
Once a person is pre-registered to vote, he or she will not need to bring identification to the polls but will be required only to state their name and address so the poll workers can locate them on the polling list. Then the pre-registered voter will be given a ballot and may proceed to the voting area. In contrast, if a person is not registered when going to the polling place, he or she will need to bring proof of residency and a form of identification and fill out the registration form, resulting in a wait in a longer, slower line.
Lu Ann Hecht, River Falls city clerk and a member of River Falls Votes, says students should participate in this registration drive: "Being registered before you go to the polls helps everyone on Election Day."
People who are interested in participating as deputies or in other ways should contact Craig Witte, UWRF Student Senate legislative affairs director, at 763-742-4927 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . The group also has presence on Facebook, an online social networking site.
Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:45 Central Daylight Time
University of Wisconsin - River Falls