As students return to the campus for the new school year, many are busy getting organized for the year ahead. Setting up dorm rooms, purchasing books, signing up for student activities — these are all big parts of any student’s back-to-school “to do” list. But this fall, another important item deserves to be near the top of that list: registering to vote.
With a pivotal election less than three months away, every voice ought to be heard, especially yours. That’s why I have been helping to lead an effort in Congress to make sure every eligible voter has the chance to register, cast a ballot on Election Day and have that ballot counted accurately.
For those of you in college and graduate school, this election will have a significant impact on a number of issues important to young people, such as the availability of student loans, the creation of well-paying jobs and access to affordable health care. With so much at stake, it should be as easy as possible for you to have a say in the direction our country takes, no matter which party or candidates you support.
That’s why I joined members of Congress in sending a letter to the presidents of more than 5,800 colleges and universities across the country asking them to make voter registration information readily available to their students. University President Wallace Loh received one, and I commend him for continuing to promote student civic involvement at this university. I was also encouraged to read The Diamondback’s Aug. 15 staff editorial, “Fill the ballot box,” encouraging students to participate in this fall’s election.
For in-state students, registering couldn’t be easier. Maryland now offers online voter registration at voterservices.elections.state.md.us/OnlineVoterRegistration for those who have a valid state-issued driver’s license or ID number.
Out-of-state students can visit the innovative new web application I released with my colleagues in July to find out how to register in their home states, with a link to state boards of election where absentee voter forms can be downloaded. It can be found at democraticwhip.gov/votingrights. I hope you will use it and share it with your friends to know how you can exercise your right to vote. Voting laws in a number of states have changed this year, and in some places they have become especially restrictive for students. Nobody should find out on Election Day that he or she is no longer registered or does not have the required identification to enter the voting booth.
When I was a sophomore at this university, Sen. John F. Kennedy, then a presidential primary candidate, spoke at a campaign rally at Ritchie Coliseum. In his powerful and rousing remarks that day, which afterward led me to change my major and pursue a career in public service, Kennedy declared: “Thomas Jefferson knew that the success of democracy depended on officeholders who drew their strength from the support and approval of the people. There are always, he said, two parties. Those who fear and distrust the people and … those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, as the most honest and sure depository of the public interest.”
When more Americans vote, those who serve in office are more likely to represent the public interest, and when more students vote, our government has a greater chance of looking to the future. I hope this year, students on this campus will stand up and make sure to include their voices in this important election — not only for our America but for the one that they will lead in the future.
Steny Hoyer is the U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip. His office can be reached at 202-225-4131.