Last week, posters dotted the Northwestern campus - featuring Willie the Wildcat as Uncle Sam - urging students to register to vote.
This All-Campus Voter Registration Day, hosted by NU Votes, an initiative of the Center for Civic Engagement, provided registration and absentee ballot forms as well as “logistical advice” to hundreds of ‘Cats across campus, according to student coordinator and SESP senior Becca Portman.
New Northwestern voters are faced with an oft-overlooked, yet significant decision in registering to vote, one that is easily overshadowed by the excitement of a dead-heat, intensely partisan presidential election: College students have the option to register to vote in their home state or the state where they attend school.
And this year, many Northwestern students have chosen to register in Evanston, their home away from home. According to NU Votes, 648 of the 1003 voters who registered during Wildcat Welcome and the All-Campus drive registered in Cook County.
Weinberg freshman Jeffrey Hong, for example, chose to register in Illinois instead of his home state, New Jersey.
"First of all, I think that wasn't the biggest decision," said Hong. "Mostly I thought just being able to vote and doing my civic duty was the most important thing to me.”
Hong added that both Illinois and New Jersey are blue states, so the decision to register in Illinois came down to “just being able to vote rather than going through the hassle of getting an absentee ballot.”
The decision to register in Evanston allows students to more directly affect their lives at school, according to Ani Ajith, speaker of the ASG Senate and Weinberg junior.
“By me registering here and by influencing aldermanic elections, this allows me and the student body to start having influence in local politics,” Ajith said.
Issues such as building codes, safety codes and the so-called “brothel law,” which prevents more than three unrelated people from living in the same house, were all cited as important to students.
Co-President of Northwestern’s Political Union Steven Monacelli also mentioned the importance of NU students taking an active role in local politics.
“If we can illustrate to students that their collective votes and their collective voice will make a difference, then students will come to understand that it’s worth going that extra leg to re-register in Evanston and go out to polling places come election time.”
Monacelli, a Communication senior, discussed the possibility of a student movement to push unregistered students to do so in Evanston so that they can more directly influence issues pertinent to their lives as students.
“There are a number of students across a number of student groups across campus that are interested in working cooperatively at this sort of an ad hoc basis - forming an outside organization not associated with the university,” Monacelli said.
However, some members of the government are skeptical as to how effective a pronounced student voting presence in Evanston would be.
“[Student voting] probably would not affect the political arena as much as they’d think because it is decided upon the council on which laws they will pass and which laws they will not pass,” said city clerk Rodney Greene.
Communication freshman Erik Baker, an Evanston resident and former intern at the Evanston City Manager’s Office, said there is some distrust between the two entities.
“There are definitely people in the city government who want the two entities to remain separate,” said Baker. “At least in my experience, that sometimes has led to policymakers in the city government viewing with more skepticism than they normally would proposals by people in the university.”