Tuesday, Sept. 24 marked National Voter Registration Day, an effort endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State to increase civic engagement through voter registration. The first National Voter Registration Day occurred in 2012, and has been gaining traction ever since. The holiday is also backed by the National Association of Election Directors, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the National Association of Election Officials.
According to the National Voter Registration Day website, “Every year, millions of Americans find themselves unable to vote because they miss a registration deadline, don’t update their registration, or aren’t sure how to register. National Voter Registration Day wants to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote.”
Student Leadership and Service (SLS) partnered with the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC), Next Up Oregon, Aubrey R. Watzek Library and College Democrats to bring this initiative to campus. ASLC Community Service & Relations Coordinator Mikah Bertelmann ’21 commented on how National Voter Registration Day was brought to LC.
“Next Up is part of a greater organization nationally that provides grants for students and groups on campus that want to advertise for National Voter Registration Day initiatives,” Bertelmann said. “So, ASLC applied for one of those grants and we were able to use that to provide funding for this initiative this year.”
LC students were able to register at booths outside of Fields Dining Room and in the Trail Room. Director of SLS Harold McNaron, an organizer of the event, reflected on the significance of voter registration.
“At it’s best, voting is one way some folks (as not everyone is allowed to vote) have a voice,” McNaron said via email. “Voter registration, especially here at Lewis & Clark where so many folks are just now aging into eligibility, is the first step towards gaining that voice.”
With the upcoming 2020 presidential election, many have been concerned with low voter participation, especially among younger generations. According to the Pew Research Center, voters under 30 comprise 27% of the total voting population, making up the second largest voting bloc behind baby boomers. Despite this, young voters tend to have lower voter turnouts than other generations.
Julia Salomone ’23, an ASLC voter registration volunteer, emphasized the importance she places on youth engagement in politics.
“I feel like it’s the young people of this country and world, more than anyone, that (are) angry at what is happening,” Salomone said. “I feel it’s most important to help the youth engage in whatever way possible.”
In recent years, youth civic engagement has been more visible, with participation in nationwide movements such as March for Our Lives and the Global Climate Strike. Along with an increase in youth political activism, according to the 2019 U.S. Census, there has been an increase in youth voter participation.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported in April of 2019 that “among 18 to 29-year-olds, voter turnout went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018, the largest percentage point increase for any age group.”
According to Salomone, young people are motivated to participate in government through voting.
“The youth (are) angry,” Salomone said. “They’re seeing the injustices that have gone on for way too long, so if you give them the tools to create a new political climate, I feel like they’ll put it to use.”