A small but very committed group of Western students is doing their best to rock the vote, and they're looking for your help.
Western Votes, a group of politically active students located in the VU, is registering as many people as they can before Oct. 4.
On the first day of Info Fair alone, Western Votes helped register 111 new voters. That number doesn't account for the amount of forms that the College Republicans and the Western Democrats were also able to collect.
“Our intent is to register as many people as possible and educate them on the issues of both candidates,” said AS Vice President for Legislative and Governmental Affairs Sarah Ishmael.
Ishmael is committed to maintaining an impartial perspective rather than trying to recruit students to join political groups.
If you are interested in joining Western Votes, then Western Votes is interested in you. The only requirement is that you must maintain a non-partisan position to match your enthusiasm. Anyone trying to push a particular candidate's agenda is asked not to join.
“If you're coming to volunteer with us, it's purely to get people to vote,” Ishmael said.
To get involved, Ishmael asks hopeful participants to e-mail AS.email@example.com. She also stressed that anyone is welcome to volunteer. Make sure to include “Western Votes” somewhere in your subject line.
In addition to signing up others during Info Fair, Western Votes will be hosting a variety of events leading up to Nov. 4.
On Oct. 6, Western Votes will be collaborating with AS Productions Civil Controversy to host “Understanding the Proposed Economic Policies of Obama and McCain.” Two professors from the Economics Department will have an open discussion intended to shine light on each of the candidate's differing policies regarding the oil crisis, tax rates and the recent action in the economy, among other topics.
The challenge Ishamel faces is how to affect each individual voter. Sometimes students can find themselves lost in the rhetoric and hype, or can be hesitant to get involved in such a large cause. To counteract this, Western Votes has taken a more personal approach to registering students.
“Our main strategy is to go out and talk to people rather than having big events. We're bringing the vote to them,” Ishmael said.
Western Votes makes registration a simple process for those who qualify, according to Western's Legislative Liaison Morgan Holmgren.
The first step in the registration process is to pick up a registration form. Anyone with a Western Votes shirt and a clipboard can provide one. Otherwise, head to the Board Office in VU 504 or the Info Desk across the hall where they have plenty of forms.
If you're registering for the first time a valid driver's license or social security number is necessary to prove that you're a citizen of the United States. Secondly, you must currently be 18 years old or turning 18 before Nov. 4. If you've already registered under a different address then you can use the same form to register a change of address, just check the labeled “address change” box near the top of the form.
Students who have just moved to Washington are required to be a resident of the state for at least 30 days before the election. For most Western out-of-state registered voters, the time should have no affect on their status.
If you aren't sure whether you're already registered in Washington or another state, visit your Secretary of State's Web site. For Washington voters who are unsure, visit http://www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/ register.aspx and click “myvote,” then type in your name and information. The Web site will tell you whether you've already registered or not.
Holmgren is clear about the danger of registering twice. It may be a simple mistake on your part, but according to the Washington Secretary of State's website, registering twice is considered voter fraud, which is a misdemeanor.
“If you've previously registered it's important not to register twice. If you think you might be registered already in another state, go on their site and check,” Holmgren said.
If you would rather register on your own, registration forms can be printed off the site above and mailed with a postmark before Oct. 4. You can also bring it to VU 504 by the same deadline and Western Votes will mail it for you.
If you happen to forget to mail it in by Oct. 4, the County Auditor's office will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 4. County Auditor Shirley Forslof will accept applications but advises students not to wait. She also recommended that students use Western's services to sign up. After Oct.4, you can still go to the County Auditor's office in-person register. Oct. 20 is the last day for in-person registration.
Both Ishmael and Holmgren agree that the most important matter isn't finding a candidate, but finding a voice and getting involved in this country's decision making process.
“We have no agenda. We're just happy to get students involved,” Ishmael said.
If you're interested in volunteering for Western Votes, please visit VU 504, or e-mail Western Votes at:
For more information on registration or to print out a registration form online, visit vote.wa.gov, or the state elections website: http://www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/