Completing My Civic Duty

By Emily Christie

So yeah, I voted on Tuesday (high fives all around), but it was by no means an easy process. I realize that all of my troubles could have been somewhat avoided and become less stressful had I registered earlier than November 2nd, but I am a college student. If you give me the option to do something at the last minute, I am going to do it. What a mistake this time. For the last election I registered to vote absentee in Indiana because I figured they needed my vote for Obama a little bit more than Minnesota did. But this year I decided I wanted to vote in Minnesota because it has become my home since coming to Macalester and I plan to stay here for a bit after graduation, so I thought it would be good to have a say in its future. I live off campus so I figured the process was going to be a little more complex than for those students who live on campus, or many of my friends who registered to vote two years ago, when they lived on campus. What an understatement. My friends who have been registered on campus just marched into Mac Plymouth and exercised their wonderful right to vote and it only took about 5 or 10 minutes. After looking up what sorts of documents I would need to register, I headed over to the registrar hoping that those wonderful ladies (and Addy) could help me out. Right away they printed me off a notarized document stating my off-campus address. I thought, Great! This is easy, but when I got to my polling place they wouldn’t accept it. They would only take a fee statement as an acceptable document from the college. Unfortunately Macalester does not include the student’s off-campus address on their fee statements, so what I needed, then, was a utility bill with my name on it. Well, I live with a few other people and I was not the one to set up our utilities so they are not in my name. ” I have a copy of the lease,” I told them. Nope that doesn’t work either. So the only thing that would get me registered was someone living in my precinct to vouch for me. My housemate whose name the utilities are in would be a perfect option, but she is in Russia, so that wouldn’t work. My neighbor wasn’t home, so I tried to think of other people. Paul Nelson? I had seen him riding his bike down my street before. President Brian Rosenberg? He lives down the street. But I felt a little bad asking people to leave in the middle of the day, which was the only time I could vote, to come vouch for me.

As a last ditch effort I went back to my polling place with a student id, my letter from the registrar, my fee statement sans address, and my rental agreement. If these did not work, then screw it. I wasn’t going to vote. By some stroke of luck, however, when I got there, a girl in my biology class, who I do not know at all outside of class (and not really that well inside class to tell the truth) was standing there vouching for someone else. At last I had found someone. So after two hours of running around I finally was able to take my ballot and exercise my right as a resident of Minnesota, even if I couldn’t adequately prove it to the poll workers.

But something seems wrong to me here. This girl who I hardly know, and has certainly never been at my house with me is able to vouch for me (thanks again by the way!), while a notarized letter from my college is not sufficient? Yeah, that makes sense. A poll worker told me that if the office of the registrar was in my voting precinct then it would have been fine because they could vouch for me. What?!

For months leading up to this election, and during the last presidential election, everyone around has been emphasizing the importance of the college student vote. Well why do you make it so freaking hard for us to do it then?! I know that we college students have a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, but I feel that the information I provided the poll workers with was sufficient to prove that I could vote there. As a college students we are stuck in this strange liminal stage between the community we grew up in, and our college community. I have a home in my parents house in Indianapolis, but I also have made a lovely home with my friends over on Ashland Avenue. College students are just one group of voters who gets disenfranchised through the whole convoluted process, yet people continue to emphasize the importance of our vote. I am really glad that I voted, but I think I deserve more than a flimsy sticker for all the trouble I went through.