The student vote may hold considerable power in the upcoming election, but getting students to register and become familiar with new voting laws is the standing challenge.
As part of the PSU Votes events that took place in the HUB-Robeson Center Wednesday, Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of State Carol Aichele addressed students about participation in the upcoming election, as well as the latest developments in the voter ID law.
“We want every college student in Pennsylvania to participate in the election this fall,” she said.
Aichele oversees the electoral process in Pennsylvania, said Damon Sims, vice president of student affairs.
Sims said it is important that students engage in the political process and work through any impediments that may exist in terms of a voter ID.
In light of the new mandates in place for the state’s voter ID, Sims discussed the university’s decision to start including expiration dates on student IDs, which took effect on May 7. The expiration dates will validate the IDs for up to five years, he said.
Older students have the option to visit the Penn State ID+ office in the HUB, where a sticker indicating an expiration date will be “affixed” on their current card. While the university is prepared to issue 20,000 stickers, according to a release issue by the id+ office, Sims said most students have other forms of identification.
But Aichele expressed her disappointment that though all college students can vote, many college students don’t vote.
After praising the university for leading efforts in putting the expiration dates on the IDs, Aichele encouraged students to register in Centre County, while she advised those planning to vote at home to apply for an absentee ballot.
Aichele said the voter ID law assures that voters are presenting accurate identification, and she maintains that the state has placed great effort in allowing “every eligible voter in Pennsylvania to register to vote and has an acceptable ID to cast that ballot.”
Responding to recent concerns from the public, Aichele said that the lack of transportation to a driving center does not stand as a deterrent, citing that volunteer drivers have been used in the past.
Students have until Oct. 9 to register to vote, but can get a voter ID up to six days after the election to vote provisionally, she said.
“Remember, you are the most sought after demographic in American politics, and use that thought to make your voice heard,” Aichele said.
Vice Chairwoman of the Penn State College Republicans Maggie Quinn (senior-public relations) encouraged students to vote.
“For many of you, this will be the first time that the weight of our Republic rests on your shoulders,” she said.
Addressing the importance of student votes, President of Penn State College Democrats Drew McGehrin zeroed in on the issue at hand, and said that college students in elections have been underrepresented in the past.
McGehrin (senior-religious studies) said students should seek education and “pick apart at the [candidates’] platforms.”
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. “As students, we make up a large chunk of the electorate. We have the ability to make a significant impact in this election, but we can only make that impact if we vote.”
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