Student Electives

By Bruce Morgan
Contributing Writer

Amid the crunch of students pouring through the McElroy Commons lobby during the first week of school, anyone devoted to luring as many passersby as possible into full participation in the nation's political life had his or her work cut out.

Assistant Director of Residential Life Burt Howell explains voter registration forms to an interested student in McElroy Commons on Sept. 6. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
"Registered to vote yet?" asked Assistant Director of Residential Life Burt Howell repeatedly, standing tall with his clipboard. "It just takes a second." But by week's end, Howell - aided by staff members from the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and a rotating team of 25 student volunteers - had enticed roughly 1,000 students over to the card table for a quick dip in citizenship.

Some students were registering for the first time, others sought advice on how to secure absentee ballots from their home states (the Housing Office had prepared a form to simplify the task).

The drive, also conducted at the Lower Campus Dining Hall, attracted students from 35 states. Over one-third were freshmen and a sprinkling of graduate students, staff and faculty also took advantage of the chance to register. As they stepped away from the table, the students were asked a few questions, including their party affiliation: 272 Democrats, 185 Republicans and 263 independents.

Voter registration fit neatly with other plans the Housing Office has in mind for sharpening political awareness among students over the next month or two, including possibly inviting faculty members into the residence halls to lead discussions as Election Day nears, Howell noted.

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