Register now, vote later

Jenna Staul

Six weeks before Ohio’s March 4 primary, Portage County Board of Elections officials want to get a message out to college students: Register to vote.

“I would encourage anyone to register ASAP,” said Lois Enlow, director of Portage County Board of Elections. “It’s their civic responsibility.”

Individuals must register at least 30 days prior to an election to be eligible to vote. The last day to register for the upcoming primary is Feb. 4. Registration forms are available at any Bureau of Motor Vehicles location, local high schools such as Kent Roosevelt and libraries, including the circulation desk at the University Library.

Forms can also be requested by calling the Board of Elections.

Undergraduate Student Senate made it a goal to register students to vote throughout the 2007-2008 academic year. Sen. John Wetmore, who heads the effort, estimates USS registered more than a hundred students in the fall and aims to register more this semester.

“I feel there’s so much other stuff in the fall going on,” Wetmore, senator for governmental affairs, said of the relatively few voters registered through USS last fall. “But as these primaries happen, it will be on people’s minds.”

Registration forms are available in Wetmore’s office in the Center for Student Involvement offices in the Student Center. USS also plans to set up a table in the Student Center in February where students can register in time for the general election.

“We saw in the 2000 election that one vote does matter,” Wetmore said. “It shows your concern to try to make a change.”

Students whose permanent address is outside of Portage County can easily register to vote in the precinct where they attend college, Enlow said.

“As long as they are 18 and they live on or off campus in Kent or Portage County, they can register here,” she said.

Enlow advises out-of-state students to check with their home voting precinct before registering in Ohio.

“We caution those people who are out-of-state,” Enlow said. “We don’t know what the ramifications would be with scholarships and things like that.”

Absentee ballots for students and those who wish to vote in precincts outside of Portage County must be cast by Feb. 8, which is 25 days prior to the primary. Absentee ballots can be obtained by contacting the Portage County Board of Elections.

Enlow said the Board of Elections has not seen a surge in voter registration despite the impending primary and all the publicity surrounding the race for the White House. She hopes, however, that more people register before the Feb. 4 deadline.

“Everyone should be concerned with who is governing them locally and nationally,” Enlow said. “It’s just kind of the American thing: You turn 18, and you vote.”

Contact student politics reporter Jenna Staul at [email protected].