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Student Group Commits to Boosting Participation in Midterm Elections
Located just outside the fractious center of national politics, the University of Maryland unsurprisingly walloped the national average for student voting in the hotly contested 2016 presidential election. Nearly 21,000 Terps cast ballots, and their 60.4 percent voting rate bested the national college and university average by 10 points.
But midterm elections tend to be sleepier—just 19 percent of Terps voted in 2014—so a group called the TerpsVote Coalition is working to drum up interest in the Nov. 6 contests.
The goal is to boost turnout to 30 percent, said Gideon Epstein, co-chair of TerpsVote and director of civic and government affairs for the Student Government Association. Throughout the fall semester, TerpsVote representatives have been registering students at everything from the Hillel BBQ to the First Look Fair, and visited almost two dozen classes to give presentations. About 2,000 new voters have been registered, Epstein says.
They’re also getting students signed up for absentee ballots and arranging buses to take students to early voting sites from Oct. 25–Nov. 1, which are more concrete steps toward participation than just registration.
“Turning students out to the polls will lead to policies students want,” Epstein said. “They can make a real plan for how to vote.”
Convincing college students to consistently show up on Election Day is a challenge, said Michael Hanmer, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Government and Politics. Their frequent moves between precincts and districts coupled with a digital-age unfamiliarity with how long it takes to send and receive mail mean that young people have an information gap on the issues and logistics of voting.
“The biggest factor is the lack of awareness of how important voting is for creating policies that affect their lives,” Hanmer said. “It takes time to develop.”
Maryland Voting Deadlines
- Oct. 16: Deadline to register online to vote in the Nov. 6 general election.
- Oct. 25: Early voting begins and runs through Nov. 1. Registered voters can cast a ballot at the polling locations in their county.
- Oct. 30: Deadline for registered voters to request a mailed or faxed absentee ballot.
- Nov. 2: Deadline for registered voters to request an electronic absentee ballot.
- Nov. 6: Polls are open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Registered voters can find their polling location here.
For information about other state deadlines, visit the TerpsVote directory.