DeVOTEd to Democracy

Students looking to voice their opinion in the 2008 presidential primary can take the first step toward casting their vote this week in the Political Engagement Project (PEP) voter registration drive.Members of PEP will have tables set up in the mall area and other key locations on campus from Jan. 22 – Jan. 31 for students who are not yet registered to vote.”Historically, the 18-25 voting demographic has been the lowest and that’s one thing we’re trying to reverse,” said Mike Yawn, political science professor and PEP member. “Students have many qualities to share and one of the ways for them to do that is to have a voice in the election process.”While the numbers have always been less than stellar, the 2004 presidential election brought an 11 percent increase in voter turnout for the 18-25 year-old demographic. “I think the turnout is going to be better during this election,” Yawn said. “There are some candidates that appeal to young voters more than others. Barak Obama has made a conscious effort to reach out to them as well as John McCain in the Republican Party despite being the oldest candidate.”Yawn attributes the low voter turnout to students’ lack of information on the process. “There is a misconception about the process itself,” he said. “Most of my students are shocked by how easy it is. Some of them aren’t sure what it is, where it is or how long it takes and they’re surprised when they find out that it takes a minute if not less to register.”The PEP organized three voter registration drives since 2004 and managed to register approximately two thousand citizens combined.”The organization hopes to build on that success,” PEP member Dana Grant said. “Our purpose is not only to register students but also raise awareness about the political process. This registration drive allows us to do both.”If being able to register on the way to class still is not convenient enough for younger voters, people can also register while taking care of other errands such as mailing a letter or returning library books.The Motor Voter Acts allows citizens to register at public places such as county election board offices, social services administration offices, departments on health, public institutions of higher education, post offices and public libraries. “With the Motor Voter Act, people are able to register while you’re doing other government functions like getting your driver’s license,” Yawn said. “If you’re already having to be involved with the government, this encourages you to get actively involved in the process.”Whether students register on or off campus, PEP hopes to promote political participation, political knowledge and political leadership through their campaign.”Those of us with the Political Engagement Project think of voting as a gateway activity,” Yawn said. “People who engage in the process will continue to contribute in important ways.” For more information, contact Yawn at (936) 577-9395.

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