Archive for Wednesday, October 20, 2004

KU group sets record for signing up voters

October 20, 2004


Hours of manning voter registration tables on campus has paid off for a Kansas University student group.

The Student Legislative Awareness Board says it has registered more than 5,300 students to vote in the Nov. 2 general election.

When all online registrations are tabulated, that number is expected to grow to more than 5,600 -- the highest total in Student Legislative Awareness Board history and nearly three times that of the 2000 election.

"We're really happy with that," said Katie Wolff, the organization's director. "I think one of the problems for students comes down to accessibility. If you make it accessible, and you put voter registration out there in their face, it's easier for them to take their own initiative."

Wolff said the Student Legislative Awareness Board registered 4,668 people in person. At last count, there were an additional 653 online registrations, though Wolff expected that number to grow to about 1,000.

The board registered about 3,500 students during the 2002 campaign. In 2000, about 2,000 students registered through the organization.

"We were helped by the basic high level of interest in the election," Wolff said.

College students in Kansas are given the option of registering to vote at their parents' address or in the county that houses their university. The Student Legislative Awareness Board urged students to register in Douglas County, making the argument that students spend more time during the year in Lawrence than at home. Showing a strong student voting bloc also could help higher education funding.

Wolff said many students opted to switch their registration to Douglas County because it would be easier to vote here than to request an absentee ballot from their home county.

Marni Penrod, Douglas County election clerk, said she noticed a rush of younger people who came in to register Monday, the last day of registration for the Nov. 2 election.

"I do think in general it's the younger people who wait until the last minute," she said. "They also move more often, so they do need to re-register."

Offering the option for students to vote in two locations does present a small concern for the Secretary of State's office. Brad Bryant, state elections director, typically runs a search each spring to make sure voters are registered in only one county.

"We have thousands of registrations coming in right now," Bryant said. "We don't have the means to check that between now and Election Day."

However, Bryant noted that voters who register must sign a form saying they're not registered in another location. Anyone voting in more than one place could face prosecution when the next search is completed.

"You have to trust them," he said. "If they do (register in more than one place), they're breaking the law."

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