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Campus should welcome chance to vote early, impact government representation, influence

October 12, 2010

by Scot Schraufnagel, assistant professor, NIU Department of Political Science

Scot Schraufnagel

Scot Schraufnagel

The Nov. 2 general election is fast approaching and will actually arrive on the NIU campus sooner than Election Day.

From Monday, Oct. 18, through Thursday, Oct. 21, students, faculty, staff, and other DeKalb County residents will be able to vote early in Gallery Lounge on the main level in the Holmes Student Center

V.O. Key, a prominent political scientist, argues: “The blunt truth is that politicians and officials are under no compulsion to pay much heed to classes and groups of citizens that do not vote.”

The implication is that those not voting will be underrepresented and suffer accordingly. Moreover, academic research consistently finds a relationship between higher voter turnout and increased government attention and citizen benefits at all levels of government. Simply put, lower voter turnout translates into unequal representation and unequal influence.

A different genre of research consistently finds that the ease of voting significantly influences the likelihood that individuals will vote. 

For instance, research on cross-national voter turnout finds that countries that allow for two-day voting, rest-day or weekend voting, and countries with more polling stations, experience higher voter turnout, on average.

The DeKalb County Clerk’s Office seems to have embraced the concept of making voting easier.

This year — actually next week — students living in the residence halls on the NIU campus can register to vote, and vote, a very short distance from where they sleep; and they can do so over a four-day period. It cannot get much easier than that.

Many reading this recognize that the university is weathering a tough budgetary climate; perhaps now more than ever, it is important that our voices be heard. The DeKalb County Clerk’s office has made this much easier. Students, faculty and staff need to heed the call and turn out next week at the Holmes Student Center for early voting.

Scot Schraufnagel teaches courses and  is acting director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Political Science. His research and teaching specialties are U.S. Congress, political parties, elections and the U.S. presidency, with an emphasis on promoting a civil, representative and effective legislative process in the United States.

Related:  Voter registration, early voting coming to NIU