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MU student group urges voter registration

ASUM wants more college-age students to vote.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | 4:07 p.m. CDT; updated 4:34 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It’s getting harder and harder to find a college student on campus who isn’t registered to vote, or at least one who hasn’t been asked to register.
As the Oct. 8 voter registration deadline approaches, student organizations are amping up their efforts to get college students more involved in a process to which they are fairly new.
The Associated Students of the University of Missouri, a non-partisan student advocacy organization, has partnered with the MU Department of Residential Life to increase the number of MU students who turn out at the polls. Since June, the group has registered more than 1,400 new voters in Boone County, but they hope to double that figure by the Oct. 8 cutoff date.
“We’ll be pushing hard on getting people registered before the deadline,” Clint Birdsong said. Birdsong is the lead coordinator for  the group’s voter registration drive and, so far, he is satisfied with its success.
“We’re promoting responsible and healthy voting behavior,” he said. “What’s really exciting is to see students come up to make sure they’re registered here, that they can vote here. … That’s different from the past.”
The group kicked off its efforts Monday when it mailed out 7,200 Missouri Voter Registration Applications to student mailboxes in MU dorm buildings. They hope to register 400 new voters by the end of the week and hope to re-register as many students as they can in Boone County.
While the organization offers absentee ballot request forms for out-of-state MU students, it is suggesting that students register locally for convenience. The group sees Missouri’s standing as a bellwether state as a huge incentive for students who want their vote to matter.
“It’s real important that students be able to vote where they’re affected,” Birdsong said. “We really want to provide a way for (students) to know about the issues.”
Voter registration is only half of the the group’s plan for increasing college students’ voter participation. The organization — which has been advocating on behalf of MU students since 1975 — is putting together a voter guide that documents where candidates stand on issues important to college students, such as the future funding of public education and the future of the economy.
It also will host a forum Oct. 1 at MU where students new to the process can communicate directly with local candidates.
“The youth are really energized, more energized than I’ve seen in many years,” said Mary Still, a Columbia Democrat who is seeking the 25th District seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.
“It’s hard anymore for students to get a good job with benefits out of school, or any job,” Still said. “The state economy will thrive if we support a well-educated workforce.”
Destiny Costley was registered to vote in her home state of Texas, but the MU sophomore elected to do her electing here in Columbia.
“I don’t want to deal with the hassle of an absentee ballot,” she said. “I feel better about voting here, knowing Missouri is a swing state.”
MU senior Andrew Patton had wanted to register but was leery of doing so through partisan groups such as the College Republicans or Democrats.

“(The Associated Students of the University of Missouri) is trying to get you to vote; they’re not pushing an agenda or a particular candidate,” Patton said. Although he originally is from St. Charles, Patton also chose to vote locally.

“I want to vote on Election Day; it’s just easier that way.”


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