A hopeful increase in voter turnout

As voters cast their ballots in today’s mayoral election, local polling places probably won’t be dominated by the slouching, underdressed figures of college students. 

While most University students boast at least some level of political awareness, most students still don’t vote in national elections and even fewer show up for state or local elections. 

Only 21.5 percent of young people from ages 18 to 29 voted in the last midterm election, a significantly smaller turnout than the 45 percent in this demographic who voted in the 2012 presidential election.  

Although voter turnout in local elections is lower than that of national elections, the impact of local election results on our lives is far greater. Plus, for most of the year, we live in Champaign-Urbana. Regardless of whether we vote to elect our local officials, their decisions directly affect our lives, and we should care about the outcome. 

In the 10 states with top youth turnout, seven of them have less strict voting laws in place, including voting by mail, same-day voter registration or not requiring registration at all. These states made voting even easier than it already was.

In Illinois, the voting laws for this mayoral election disallow same-day registration. Voter registration is open year-round, except for the 28-day period before elections and the two-day period that follows, leaving a short span of time for anyone to register once election campaigns begin. Luckily, this is about to change for our state.

Come June 1, Illinois will join the 10 states, along with the District of Columbia, that offer same-day registration. 

Thanks to a bill signed by former Gov. Pat Quinn in July, all voting-eligible citizens can easily complete their civic duty in all future elections. Additionally, this bill allows students to change their voting address to their campus residence.  

If more states adopted similar policies, we could see higher turnout in elections at all levels, and therefore more citizen participation. The entire point of democracy and voting is to have as many voices heard as possible, which would be possible with these laws.

The University may feel like a bubble, separate from the cities beyond it, but we should care about what goes on in Champaign-Urbana. It’s more than where we learn — it’s our second home. Illinois has taken an important step in increasing voter turnout, especially for college-age citizens, so we should take advantage of it.