Political participation isn’t typically what first-year students expect to hear about during their first floor meeting, but for this year’s incoming Temple students, voter registration is on the agenda.
All on-campus residents will receive an official voter registration form and attached letter explaining the details at their first floor meeting of the year. This form must be mailed to Philadelphia County Voter Registration Office before Oct. 5 if they have never registered in Philadelphia and plan on voting here in the 2013 election.
City Commissioner Al Schmidt, in partnership with Temple Student Government, Temple Residential Life and Temple Residence Hall Association began this initiative to avoid college students walking into polling places on Election Day without having previously registered for that location.
“This is something I saw as a problem when I first came into office,” Schmidt said. “We want anyone who wants to vote, to be able to vote.”
In last year’s presidential elections, a report released by the local governmental watchdog group PennPRIG stated that 27,395 provisional ballots were cast in Philadelphia, with a large amount of those votes coming from college students who were voting for the first time in new districts.
College students coming from out-of-state or another district in Pennsylvania have the option of voting in their home town or applying for a absentee ballot, or they can choose to register to vote in Philadelphia by submitting the registration form given to them at their residence halls or around campus, Schmidt explained.
If the latter option is chosen, the student’s hometown will be notified of the change and they’ll be removed from the voter rolls there. The student will then receive a voter registration card in the mail as a confirmation, which will say where their assigned polling place is.
The letter accompanying the registration form reads, “If you wish to vote in Philadelphia, you must register in Philadelphia,” along with the details of the registration process.
These voter registration forms will also be available for everyone at the information desk in the Student Center, the Temple Student Government office in Room 244 and also in the Student Center.
Darin Bartholomew, Temple’s student body president, was one of the backers for the registration initiative.
“It happened pretty quickly, probably less than a month,” he said. “It goes to show the importance of voter registration.”
Unlike some of the campaign-associated voter registration efforts seen around campus in the past, this initiative has no party affiliation.
“There’s nothing partisan about this,” Schmidt said. “We would like everyone to register, no matter how it’s done.”
At the floor meetings, students can also give the registration form to their resident assistant, which will then be mailed out. Precautions have also been taken to ensure the confidentiality of these submitted registration forms through established guidelines for the resident advisors, Bartholomew said.
Temple is the first school in Philadelphia to adopt this initiative. The Office of the City Commissioner has also been meeting with Drexel University and reached out to the University of Pennsylvania to establish a similar program.
Schmidt explained that he hopes to continue this program and expects it will happen every year.
The upcoming Nov. 5 election will see races for city offices such as the district attorney, one of nine city controller positions and various judge posts. These offices are in charge of prosecuting in criminal cases, auditing the mayor and city council and overseeing trials, respectively.
Assuming students have sent in their registration and received the voter registration card, on Election Day they are required to show an accepted form of identification if it is their first time voting at this polling place, along with the voter registration card they received in the mail.
Due to a Commonwealth Court judge’s ruling, the controversial 2012 voter ID law has been delayed in its enforcement until at least after this November election. This means that if this is someone’s second time voting at the same polling place, they don’t need to show ID.
“We want to educate [students] that if they want to vote here, they can vote here,” Schmidt said.
Marcus McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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