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At Michigan Tech

Houghton university focusing on voter registration

HOUGHTON — Tuesday, Sept. 22, is National Voter Registration Day when thousands of national, state and local organizations and volunteers will participate in a massive voter registration effort. Once again, Michigan Technological University is taking part in this national event.

Michigan Tech’s effort is led by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), Student Leadership and Involvement and several faculty members. One student organizer is Zach Olson, USG’s Political Affairs Committee chair and a recently named fellow of the Campus Election Engagement Project, a national nonpartisan project that works with college campuses throughout the country to engage student participation in federal, state and local elections. 

Olson said Voter Registration Day activities, held from noon to 3 p.m., will be easy to spot on campus. “We’ve got a site reserved next to the Husky statue and volunteers will be on campus directing students to the registration effort,” he said. “Houghton City Clerk Ann Vollrath will be there to answer any questions.” Students may register to vote, check their voter registration and request an absentee ballot all in one convenient location, he added.

Registration efforts will follow COVID-19 guidelines. “We’ll practice social distancing and even though we’ll be outside you’ll be in close proximity to some volunteers, so masks are required,” Olson said.

He noted that in 2018 the MTU campus voter registration effort was given a boost by the visiting Michigan Secretary of State mobile office, giving students an ideal opportunity to register to vote and have their election-related questions answered. But the mobile office won’t be present this time around.

“This year, students are taking a more active role,” Olson said. “Students should be at the front of voter registration efforts and that’s what we’re trying to do.” 

Earlier this year Washington Monthly magazine placed MTU on the “2020 Best Colleges for Student Voting Honor Roll.” Olson appreciates the recognition, but he’d like to see the numbers increase. “The (Washington Monthly) listing reflected a significant increase in voter registration, But MTU is still well below our peers. I’d like to increase our numbers so we are above the national average.”

While voter registration will take place outdoors near the Husky statue, students might also hear about the holiday in the classroom. Kari Henquinet (PHC) Kat Hannum (SS) and Richelle Winkler (SS) have created a Canvas Module that instructors can incorporate into their courses to help students learn about the voting process, get registered, and find out what will be on the ballot in November. “The module can easily fit into existing courses and adapted as instructors see fit,” Winkler said. 

“Instructors are using the module and some are giving students extra credit for voting. It’s good motivation,” Olson said. 

All political fronts say this is one of the most important elections in recent American history. Olson said that rhetoric will hopefully lead to increased registration. “Obviously the political environment is caustic with both sides mobilizing an effort to increase voting,” he said. “We expect this to help us increase our registration numbers.

He said a campaign that includes social media ads and digital ads is being used in the residence halls. “I think all that is going to help. If we make students aware, they’re more likely to participate.” 

Michigan residents who are unable to make it to the Voter Registration Day event can register to vote online until Monday, Oct. 19. They may also visit any Michigan Secretary of State office. Residents of all states can find voter information at www.vote411.org

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