By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Students may soon have no excuse not to vote. The common "I didn't know where to register" or "I didn't have time to vote" will no longer be valid if student leaders have their way.
As part of a nationwide Students are Voting Everywhere campaign, Associated Students of the University of Arizona members helped 5,600 students register to vote prior to the 1994 election, but they still want to make it even easier for students to vote.
The students are working to finalize details of two proposals that allow students to request a voter-registration form over the phone and then vote here on campus at an early-polling place, said Petri Darby, a media arts senior and task force director with the Arizona Students' Association.
"The way I see it, voting is a guaranteed, fundamental, constitutional right, and if students can't register or don't know where, then that fundamental right is taken away," Darby said. "We see this as a way to give power back to the students who are often overlooked by the representatives."
Under the first part of the plan, the Pima County Recorder's Office would set up an early-polling site in the Student Union for 30 days prior to the election. Voters registered in any Pima County precinct could vote at the site and others could use the center to request absentee ballots.
Arizona State University student leaders have already encouraged the Maricopa County Recorder's Office to set up an early-polling site on campus for the 1996 election, as well as redrawing district lines so that an election day polling site is also located on campus, said Paul Allvin, ASA executive director.
"Sometimes students work, live and go to school in three separate locations and it is hard to find the time to get to a polling place on election day," he said. "This way they can vote here on campus any time during the month."
The students have gained support for the idea from the UA Parent's Association and the Alumni Association.
"The voting process is an important tool for students, faculty and staff to help ensure higher education in general and the UA specifically regain the attention and priority level that it needs statewide," said Jay Rochlin, associate director of the alumni office. "This would make it easier for up to 45,000 people to vote on campus."
Although talks are continuing with the Pima
County Recorder's Office, Larry Bayhill, the registrar of voters, said he doesn't think it is likely that a campus site will be established as the seventh in the county.
"I don't think it will happen at the university because of the low number of students who turn out and who are registered," he said.
Designating a location as an early-polling site requires it to be accessible to the general public, have available parking places and handicap accessibility as well as a large number of potential voters, he said.
Allvin said the ASU students faced the same arguments when they first approached the Maricopa County Recorder's office.
"We faced some criticism ... that a polling place wasn't necessary because students don't vote," said Paul Allvin, ASA executive director. "But we told them students don't vote because the polling places aren't accessible."
Kent Rollins, director of the Alumni Association, said establishing a polling site on campus would directly impact student voter participation.
"We need to get more students involved in voting and in the political arena," he said. "Students can be a much greater force in the legislation than they are. If we make it easy for them to participate and vote right here on campus, it will raise the percentage significantly."
The other part of Darby's plan includes expanding student voter registration by allowing them to request a voter registration form when they register for classes on the RSVP system. He is also exploring options of registering through the Internet and the SIS-2000 system. This type of massive voter registration drive would be the first in the nation of its kind, Darby said.
ASUA would send registration forms, with return postage included, to all students who requested them.
Melissa Vito, dean of students, has already approved the proposal. Darby will be meeting with other university officials this week to finalize the details of the proposal.
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