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ISSUE 118 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/8/2004

New voting rules present challenges

By Cate Grochala
Staff Writer

Friday, October 8, 2004

Most St. Olaf students will be eligible to vote in the upcoming general election Nov. 2. However, in order to vote at their college address, all St. Olaf students will have to register to vote again, even if they have voted on campus in previous elections.

St. Olaf is in Rice County, which keeps track of the room number and residence hall where students live. Since students at St. Olaf change rooms each year, it appears to the county that they have moved since the last election. Therefore, if a student wants to vote on Election Day without filling out a registration card first, he or she need to register by Oct. 12. His or her name will be entered on the eligible-to-vote roster on Nov. 2.

With potentially hundreds of students needing to register and planning to vote, election officials recommend that those planning to vote on campus try to register before the Oct. 12 cutoff date.

Political Science Professor Sheri Breen, who is also an election judge for the Buntock Commons polling site, noted that students should not be discouraged from voting if they are not registered by this date.

"Were prepared for a large number of students needing to be registered and will have an increased amount of election judges available to help students," Breen said. "We hope that in this way students will not have to wait long in lines to register and to vote."

However, some campus residents need to be aware of where they are eligible to vote. Hilleboe-Kittelsby Residence Hall, along with some of the honor houses on Highway 19 are in a different district than the rest of campus, ward 4, precinct 1.

PAC will provide transportation to St. Johns Lutheran Church, the polling site for the district which Hilleboe-Kittelsby is in, on the day of elections. According to Breen, if students are unsure where they vote, they can stop by the Buntrock Commons polling site and find out.

PAC is also involved in encouraging students to vote. According to PAC Executive Brandon Crase 05, students can register to vote in the PAC office in Buntrock at any time until Oct. 11.

Crase noted that PAC will have tables outside Stav Hall where students can register to vote Oct. 9-11. Also, both the College Republicans and College Democrats have tables outside Stav Hall all week, where students can register to vote. Additionally, registration forms are available from the front desk of each residence hall.

"So far weve gotten about 20 to 30 voter registration cards in each day," Crase said. "We then turn the registrations in to the Rice County Courthouse."

In an e-mail to the student body, Dean of Students Greg Kneser said, "We encourage all eligible students to become informed on the issues and to cast their vote ... We not only encourage students to vote but to make a thoughtful choice about where they want to vote."

Students may register at their St. Olaf address or their home address. Both options have advantages, but students must choose between one or the other.

Students who have registered to vote on campus in previous elections say that registering to vote is a relatively simple process.

"It was like an assembly line," Jessica Niebeling '06 said. "You went through the line to register, then the line to vote. They were very helpful with questions." Niebeling lived in Hilleboe-Kittelsby at the time and noted "the transportation to the voting site from campus made it much easier."

Students wishing to vote as part of their home district may request an absentee ballot from their city hall or their county election office. Many cities and counties have an online request form which can be printed and mailed in order to receive a ballot.

Students can get further involved in the elections by signing up with the party of their choice. Crase expects that both major political parties will be wanting students to help get out the vote, especially in the week prior to the election and especially for local candidates.

"Three thousand students can make a big impact, especially on a local election," Crase said.

Breen also said that students have the option of becoming election judges, who help enforce voting rules and assist voters, but that they must check with their party first.

Crase said he has already seen increased interest on the part of students this year.

"I think that with this election being so close, its a lot more exciting and people are a lot more interested," Crase said.

With variety of ways to register, students are encouraged to vote in whichever way they choose this Election Day. By voting, St. Olaf students will, as Dean Kneser explained in his e-mail, "Make your voice known concerning those who represent you.

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