In the past month Stanford in Government (SIG) and Stanford Votes – a faculty, student, and staff non-partisan effort – have effectively raised awareness about the low level of student voter participation (20 percent in prior mid-term elections). Thanks to their efforts, well over 1800 students have already registered to vote via https://stanford.turbovote.org/, far exceeding past election year numbers. Their final major event, Bring Your Ballot, featuring resources to inform voting on local and national issues, takes place at the Women’s Community Center this Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Several commentaries in the Daily last week expressed concern that student voter registration does not go far enough. While the duty to vote is more critical now than ever, it is in fact only one part of the process of becoming an engaged citizen. As speakers at several Stanford Votes events have stressed, American citizens need to be ever vigilant. That long-term work includes building a democracy movement that will protect voting rights, reform the electoral process, and hold elected officials responsible. A key step towards reaching these goals is to insure that our friends, family members, and co-workers register, have access to electoral information, and can submit absentee ballots or get to the polls on election day.
At present, voter participation nationally and on campus promises to defy the low turnout pattern for mid-term elections. Stanford students, faculty, and staff can make that promise a reality by helping to get out the vote between now and November 6. Today, October 22, is the last day that eligible California voters can register for the upcoming election. Let’s make it a day of action. Whatever our student voting rates, whatever the results of the election, I hope this campaign season offers students the opportunity to consider the kind of citizens they hope to become throughout their lifetimes.
Estelle B. Freedman
Robinson Professor in U.S. History