Despite low turnout in a first-of-its-kind city voter registration drive at Temple’s residence halls, Temple Student Government members remain optimistic for the future of the program, which could expand to other colleges in upcoming elections.
City Commissioner Al Schmidt brought the idea to TSG, who then worked with Residential Life and Residence Hall Association to distribute the registration forms in the dorms. Of the 5,200 registration forms given by the commissioner’s office, only 150 were filled out and returned by students.
“I wish we could have done better, as always,” Darin Bartholomew, Temple’s student body president, said. “But it is an off-year election.”
The election on Nov. 5 is for local offices, such as city controller and district attorney, as well as municipal and commonwealth judgeships.
In comparison, last year’s election had races for the president, senators and representatives, as well as numerous state and local offices.
According to records from the Pennsylvania Department of State, more than 17,000 people registered to vote by Aug. 25 of this year. In 2012, nearly 30,000 people registered to vote in the same time period.
The voter turnout for this year’s municipal primaries was also low. Dylan Morpurgo, TSG director of government affairs, said TSG will work from now to Election Day to spread the word about the elections.
“The TSG communications team is going to be doing a full push on our social media … with Election Day reminders and information,” Morpurgo said in an email. “We will also be making posters for each of the residence halls with Election Day reminders, information and polling locations.”
Morpurgo expressed hopes that this would give those registered in the dorms initiative to vote as well.
Bartholomew said the initiative to hand out voter registration in dorms is a good idea that needs tweaking.
“I think we can get the forms into the hands of students quicker,” he said.
Due to the large logistical task of handing out a few thousand forms, plus an accompanying informational letter, distribution took longer than what was optimal, Bartholomew said. He discussed the idea of making a packet for every paper for dorm residents, including the voter registrations.
The future of the program looks to be intact since the lower numbers were expected. Bartholomew said he considers the project to be a success.
“We were the pilot program, which showed a positive aspect for expanding it,” he said.
Next year, voters will decide in the last congressional midterm election under the Obama administration, as well as the race for Pennsylvania governor. The Democratic challenger to the incumbent, Gov. Tom Corbett, will be determined in the primaries this spring, which is also expected to attract more voter interest.
Marcus McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MarcusMcCarthy6.