Nov. 6 is looming. The main focus, of course, is on the race between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney. But there are other public offices up for contention that will influence American economic, social and foreign policy in the upcoming years. The deadline for registering to vote is tomorrow, and we urge you to do so as soon as possible.
Duke has often been called a politically apathetic campus, sometimes with good reason. In 2008, for example, the year Durham County and North Carolina helped elect the nation’s first black president, only 36 percent of students living on campus voted, compared to 51 percent of youth voters nationwide.
Low voter turnout is both shocking and unacceptable at a university that has displayed such passion for the critical issues at stake. Hopefully, the increased political energy these past few months—from the packed American Grand Strategy election debate to Obama’s visits at nearby universities—will inspire Duke students to cast their ballots.
The outcome of the election will determine significant policy at the federal level, policy that shapes issues about which Duke students are passionate. Even in the opinion section of The Chronicle, columnists and guest commentators have hotly debated economic issues, gay marriage, Obama’s health care plan and student loan legislation affecting Pell Grants and interest rates. Every single one of these issues and a great deal more will be impacted by the upcoming election, and students should ensure that their voice is heard beyond campus discourse.
And now the logistics.
You must be registered to vote, and your registration must show your current address. This means that if you have moved campuses or moved to a new apartment on Central Campus, you will need to update your voter registration, even if you voted in May. You can check whether or not you have registered by checking the state board of elections website. North Carolina allows ballots to be cast at one-stop early voting sites from October 18 to November 3: Duke will have its own site in the Old Trinity Room in the West Union Building. There are no on-campus voting sites on Election Day, so we highly encourage students to use this early voting option. OSEV sites also allow you to register to vote if you miss Friday’s deadline. However, this will take more time, and you will be required to bring a DukeCard if you live on campus and proof of address if you live off campus.
There are two common complaints with the voting process on polling day: First, it can be difficult and time-consuming to go to a polling booth. Secondly, it can seem like your individual vote counts for nothing. In response to the first grumble, OSEV makes voting unequivocally painless—the opportunity cost of dipping into West Union for a few minutes is minimal. To the second, if there were ever a time when your vote would count, it is this year in North Carolina. It’s October, and it’s still neck-and-neck between Romney and Obama.
We implore the Duke community to register to vote and to make an informed decision when Election Day rolls around.