Column: Why your vote matters in Champaign County

By Brian Pierce

On Quad Day this year, I manned the student ACLU booth and shouted at passersby, asking them if they were registered to vote. Most of them avoided eye contact with me and for that they should be punished somehow. Many students came up and willingly registered. But there is a third group that would tell me they were registered “at home,” as in, not in Champaign County. And it is this group of students I urge to reconsider before it is too late.

There are arguments to be made that as a student, spending at least nine months of your year in this district, you should always be registered to vote at school. I can take or leave that argument, depending on how connected one feels to one’s home district.

But in this election year, the point is a lot easier to make given the existence of the state senate race in this district between Democrat Mike Frerichs and Republican Judy Myers.

Oh, yeah, and Socialist Equality Party member Joe Parnarauskis, an ultraliberal third party candidate who will likely siphon votes away from Frerichs. Way to put up a fight getting on the ballot, Joe. The Republican Party is proud of you.

Anyway, these three candidates are locked in battle over the 52nd legislative district, which since 2003 has been occupied by Republican Rick Winkel. The district is traditionally Republican, but it has always been closely divided, and Frerichs has an excellent chance at winning this time around.

That is, if students register to vote here and do their civic duty when Election Day rolls around in November. The race is going to be close, and regardless of your politics, your voice in this election will probably matter a great deal more than any local race in your home town.

The 52nd district spans segments of both Champaign County and Vermilion County, both of which are largely Republican. But in the 2002 general election between Winkel and former Champaign mayor Dan McCollum, McCollum lost by just 620 votes in a race in which over 57,000 votes were cast. That’s just one percent of the vote.

Frerichs, a Yale graduate, has run for the General Assembly before, when he ran against Tim Johnson, who was then a state representative and now sits in the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson had never received less than 61 percent of the vote until he garnered only 53 percent when Frerichs ran against him.

Without Parnarauskis in the race, one might even argue that Frerichs is the favorite to win this election. With Parnarauskis, it’s anybody’s race to win. And by anybody, I mean only Frerichs or Myers. If Parnarauskis wins, I will eat not only my hat but my entire wardrobe. And the wardrobes of my immediate family.

But Parnarauskis is in the race, and it’s a free country, so there he should remain. It shall be left up to the voters of this district, and that’s where you come in.

I recently noticed a group on Facebook called “If this group reaches 100,000 members, my girlfriend will have a threesome.” It reached its mark in a little over three days. If such a thing is possible, then surely enough students on this campus can register to vote to ensure more than the 55 percent turnout that Champaign County enjoyed in the last midterm election year.

This is where your vote will actually count, unless you live in one of the relatively small number of other competitive districts across the country. Voter registration closes on October 10th. If you want your vote to mean something, if you want to direct the power of your voice to the achievement of some tangible goal, then register in Champaign County and vote in the race between Mike Frerichs and Judy Myers.

And that other guy.