October 10, 2008

Website Weighs Students’ Votes at Home vs. School

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Amidst the hustle and bustle of the pre-Fall Break crunch, the last deadline on most students’ minds is voter registration. The paperwork involved in registering to vote and obtaining absentee ballots has kept college students from the voting booth in past elections, but things are different in 2008.
CountMore.org, a non-partisan website launched Sept. 22, aims to help students decide whether their vote will make a bigger difference at school or at home. Cornell has one of the highest campus population of swing voters in the country, according to votebackhome.com, a website that provides comprehensive statistics about student voters.
“Many students don’t realize they have the option of voting where they go to school or in their home state — and it can take time to find out where your vote counts more. CountMore.org reminds students that their vote could decide the election,” Matt Lerner, chief technical officer of Front Seat, stated in an e-mail.
Since the 1979 ruling in Symms v. U.S., students have had the right to choose whether to vote at school or at home. For some students, the idea of making their vote count is appealing.
“When I convince my relatives to vote for [presidential nominee Barack] Obama it’s making an actual difference, in the state of Florida,” Andy Ben ’09 said.
Cornell students who do not live in swing states are equally excited about the election.
“Even though I’m from California, which will almost certainly go Democratic, I still believe it’s important to vote. I’d never want to miss out on getting involved in the political process,” Claire Douglass ’12 said.
The website allows students to search for their school and home states, and provides resources for registering and voting in whichever state is determined to be more crucial to the election.
According to CountMore, the closest battleground-state races in the upcoming election are Ohio and Colorado, followed by Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada and Michigan.
CountMore uses an algorithm that analyzes the results of the 2004 election as well as data from current polls to determine which states are most important in 2008.
The primary goal of CountMore is to increase student involvement in the electoral process by simplifying the registration process.
“In 2004 we were registering students on swing state campuses like hotcakes,” Lerner stated. “It was empowering for students to know that their vote counted more in a swing state than it did in their home state.”
According to Lerner, students may represent the most critical voter demographic in this election.
“Voter turnout was only 55 percent in 2004. In the year 2000, the election was won in Florida by about 500 votes,” Lerner stated. “There’s no question that the student vote alone could swing the election.”
Political analysts are questioning whether the massive student turnout that occurred during the Iowa caucus in January will be seen in November. According to Aleisha Jacobson of Front Seat, youth participation is promising.
“The youth vote, both in swing states and in general, is so important. Students are a highly motivated group who want to have a say in the direction their country is headed,” Jacobson stated in an e-mail.
“Countmore is a great tool to raise awareness and student votes really can have an impact in an election,” she stated.