National Voter Registration Day is just around the corner — Tuesday, Sept. 20. Many people may not be aware of this holiday – and even those on college campuses and in communities where awareness is spread and voter registration events are held, it can still be overlooked.
National Voter Registration Day was first celebrated in 2012 with the goal of helping all eligible citizens in registering to vote in celebration of democracy. Since 2012, almost 4.5 million voters have registered on this annual holiday, including 1.5 million in 2020.
However, young people ages 18 to 29 have historically low voting rates, which have not increased significantly in recent years. Many campuses hold voter registration events and offer resources to students, but young people who don’t attend college may not have access to the same resources. Even among collegiate populations, voter turnout is lower than other age demographics.
“The university [of Wisconsin–Madison] should more directly educate students on voting. In the same way, institutions educate students about drinking through mandatory modules and informational sessions, they should give more resources and include voting education in new student and freshman trainings and orientations,” BadgersVote lead intern Tabitha Houghton says.
Voter registration locations and events on campus — Tuesday, Sept. 20
1. Red Gym, Library and Engineering Mall from 10am to 4pm
2. Qdoba Nacho Bar Social at UW Hillel from 5:30 to 6:30pm
One in four Americans reported not being registered to vote in the 2020 election. More than 600,000 non-voters specifically cited a registration issue as a reason for not participating in the election.
Although registering to vote may seem straightforward, many may not be aware of the process or may face barriers in doing so. Some do not know that they need to re-register to vote after they move to a new address, even a new unit within the same building. Students who have started a new lease need to re-register at their new address.
Young voters have a harder time overcoming barriers to voting and being registered to vote. According to Tufts University, many young eligible voters do not vote because of the inability to miss work, issues with absentee ballots and poor civic education.
Pre-registration for 17 year olds is a key element in bridging the gap of unregistered young people. Speaking to high school students about how easy it is to register and the ability to register before their 18th birthday can be an easy way to get young people involved and allow them to emerge into adulthood with the necessary tools to be democratically involved.
“I went to a diverse high school where a lot of students need to feel empowered to make decisions, so getting your local community involved and educated can bring a lot of power into voting,” Molly Peden says.
Peden grew up on the east side of Madison and attended LaFollette High School, which is home to a diverse community, specifically to students and families that identify with lower income status.
National Voter Registration Day provides an outlet for voting coalitions and organizations to pool their efforts into one day and be able to maximize outreach by having it centered. For local voting rules and to find out who is on the upcoming ballot in Wisconsin, visit myvote.wi.gov.