Voter registration equals gift of power

Voter registration volunteers may be annoying, but they allow students to gain more leverage with today’s politicians.

Yes, they are annoying. You are tired of being asked if you are registered to vote and wouldn’t mind if you were never asked again.

Fortunately for college students, though, they won’t be gone. If they did pack up and quit their campaigns, much of young adults’ political leverage could disappear with them.

Voter registration drives tend to saturate college campuses during election years, and students are more than tired of them by the time registration deadlines come around. The complaining could be put to far better uses. Voter registrations are a gift to college students.

Think of the volunteers as the Salvation Army Santas, only they ask not for donations, but involvement. Your contribution goes not to the faceless needy, but to your own political power. Every time another college-age citizen gets registered and votes, the issues that matter to them become more important.
Politicians know who votes. That’s why they spend so much time campaigning in retirement homes: because they know that the elderly get out the vote better than most. If students start voting more, politicians will cater to them more.

That means more attention to student loans, to environmentalism, to job markets, in short, to everything that matters to students.

It’s understandable that listening to the same question over and over again gets annoying. But we do it every day when we are watching TV. We are willing to put up with Head On ads so we can watch our shows. The only difference is that the annoying ads you see on TV are put there by people trying to get you to spend your money.

Voter registration people are not trying to get you to spend your money. Instead, they are trying to increase your political leverage.

“Companies send legions of people to stand on sidewalks and hand out samples.  Usually, these products are items where one would have to experience the product in order to know if you liked it or not, e.g., shampoo, shaving cream…” said Eric Eisenstein, a professor of marketing in the Fox School of Business in an e-mail interview.

Being registered to vote – and by extension, voting – is a little like the products Eisenstein talks about. You’re not going to know whether you want to vote until you see what it might do for you.

In other words, probably the best way to get you to be registered to vote is to do just what the registration people are doing – stand on sidewalks asking everyone who goes by if they are registered.

“In areas with significant numbers of unregistered voters who might have some time to stop (and a college campus might be a good example of this), such a tactic might work,” Eisenstein said.
If you don’t want to vote, that’s one thing. Understand, though, the significance of what those people with the annoying questions are doing. They are dragging college-age citizens kicking and screaming into politics.

If voter registration drives are successful and record numbers of youth voters show up on Election Day, politicians and their campaign managers will notice. When they do, more money, time and energy will be spent on finding out what young adults want, and getting it to them.

Stephen Zook can be reached at

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