Student voter registration a challenge for Oswego

The New York State elections will take place on Nov. 2 and many Oswego State students remain unregistered and uninformed.

Coordinator of Civic Engagement Nola Heidlebaugh estimated that roughly 1,360 Oswego State students were registered to vote on campus in 2008. Heidlebaugh said that only 620 of the registered students on campus actually voted during the presidential elections with the machines located in Hewitt Union. However, getting accurate numbers of students participating in elections can be difficult.

"Sometimes it’s hard to get a good count because we don’t know how many people are registered in their hometown or off campus," Heidlebaugh said.

Getting students to register is another challenge. Sophomore Cailyn Burke spent time working a table in the Campus Center where she encouraged students to register to vote.

"Everybody has an excuse," Burke said. "It’s simpler to register, you just fill out the forms and you’re set."

The process might be easy, but many students continue to not register or vote. Burke said she gets the impression from some students that voting is not important to them.

Heidlebaugh noticed students are reluctant to get involved. She attributed this to the chaos in the life of a college student.

"Sometimes students are so focused on finishing a paper that they are not thinking about the bigger picture," Heidlebaugh said.

Senior Mindy Van explained that she thinks people take their right to vote for granted. Van, who is not a U.S. citizen and cannot vote in the upcoming election spent time working the table in the Campus Center encouraging students to register.

"They think their vote won’t change anything, but they should take advantage of their rights," Van said.

Another problem cited by Burke, Van and Heidlebaugh is a general lack of knowledge about voting and candidates. Burke suggested elections should be promoted more around campus to get the attention of the students.

Heidlebaugh said one way to offer information to students is to provide an unbiased fact sheet for students to get to know candidates.

The upcoming election will include votes for U.S. Senate seats, the New York state governor, as well as several other elected officials.

"Students need to realize that senator and governor elections are just as important as presidential elections," Heidlebaugh said "Governors have great influence over the SUNY budget."

It’s not too late to register to vote and students interested in doing so can pick up the necessary forms from The Compass or at the voter registration tables around campus.