Swing-state students urged to vote at home

By Nate Sandstrom

Flyers began to appear around campus last week encouraging University students from “swing states,” states in which neither President George Bush nor Senator John Kerry has a large lead in presidential election polls, to vote in those states instead of Illinois.

Sam Norris, freshman in engineering, said it frustrated him to see people registering voters in Champaign County whose votes might be more meaningful in their home state. That’s why Norris began posting flyers in areas he thought people would most likely see them – the Quads and Campustown.

Illinois is not being hotly contested between the candidates. Illinois has voted for the democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1988, and polls show Kerry is likely to defeat Bush in Illinois this November.

While Norris isn’t sure how effective the flyers will be, he said he believed if people see them, they might be encouraged to vote in their own state.

“Some people say it’s pointless because so many people are from Illinois,” he said. “But we have more people from out of state than a lot of other schools.”

2,096 students from swing states attended the University in Fall 2003, according to the University’s Division of Management Information.

The flyers came from the Web site SwingStateVoter.com. Michael Peshkin, Northwestern University Mechanical Engineering professor, runs the site. Each flyer contains the Web address with instructions on how to register to vote and forms to obtain absentee ballots if the person is from a swing state.

Peshkin said 300,000 students from swing states attend college in a non-swing state.

“You need flyers to reach people, or newspaper articles, not just Web sites,” Peshkin said. “So I’d like to get (flyers) up all over the U.S.”

Peshkin said flyers have been posted at about 35 schools and he is running and paying for a postering campaign at schools across the country in non-swing states.

Peshkin defined Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia as swing states in this election.

The Web site reminds students they should vote only once.

Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden said his office would conduct an exhaustive computer search after the election to verify no one voted in another location outside of Champaign County.

Shelden said his office has never investigated anyone for voting in more than one location after previous elections, but he said he had read about the potential for abuse during this election.

“We intend to make a concerted effort to find out if people voted in another state or another area of Illinois,” he said.

After the controversy that followed the 2000 elections, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It required each state to create a computerized list of all registered voters.

Illinois, in addition to several other states, has been granted a waiver of this obligation until 2006.

“It’s in the works,” said Becky Glazier, assistant to the director of the Illinois Board of Elections.

Glazier said there was not enough time to implement the requirements HAVA set for this year’s elections. She said that many rural counties did not even have computers.

She also said Illinois had distributed $4.5 million to counties to make improvements in their voting systems and that they still have $98.5 million to spend to make the necessary improvements to comply with federal guidelines when the waiver deadline expires on Jan. 1, 2006.