Administration aces voter registration test

By Brett Freeman

Administrators in the University are not accustomed to receiving letter grades for their performance. Recently, however, administrators were recognized with an “A” for their work in enabling students to download and print a voter registration form from the University website last fall.

The University was among five institutions that received the top grade out of 162 schools of higher learning in the state of Illinois, in a report written by Debra Kosek of the Midwest Democracy Center. The other four were Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville, Rend Lake College, Blackburn College, and Wheaton College. A majority received a failing grade, including Northwestern University.

The Midwest Democracy Center Report, which was released on May 2, states that under the guidelines of the National Higher Education Act of 1998, “Colleges and universities in the United States are required to make a good faith effort to distribute voter registration forms to every student, and to make such forms widely available.”

According to the report, in order to receive a “C” from the Midwest Democracy Center, universities needed to at least offer a link on their website to such organizations as “Rock the Vote.”

Indivar Dutta-Gupta, a fourth-year in the College, voted in the November election. Two years ago, Dutta-Gupta said he downloaded his registration forms from the MTV website, but he did not see voter-registration materials on the University website during this past fall. Dutta-Gupta pointed out that posting these materials on the website is only one way of disseminating the information, but “whatever is effective is fine.” Dutta-Gupta noted that the University of Pennsylvania distributes voter-registration materials in the dorms.

Grace Lin, a fourth-year in the College and president of the College Republicans and Republican Committeeman of the 20th Ward, said she was unaware that the University had registration materials on its website. However, Lin said that “voter registration was easily accessible on campus.” Lin also noted that the College Republicans helped register hundreds of students in the Reynolds Club and some of the dining halls.

Lin called voting a “simple process” and said she has spoken with people in Chicago who claimed to vote “multiple times in an election.” Lin also noted that “each polling place has a phone available so that a non-English speaker can call into the board of elections to get instruction on voting from someone who speaks their language.” The College Democrats did not reply to a request for an interview.

The Midwest Democracy Center recently sought passage of Illinois General Assembly Bill 715, which passed the Illinois House (83-30) and Senate (33-20) last week, and is being sent to the governor’s office for signature. While the legislation received bipartisan support, all those who opposed the bill in both chambers of the General Assembly were Republicans.

Bill 715 requires institutions of higher learning to post voter forms on their website, including forms in registration mailings with an Illinois address, and distribute voter forms to students during in-person registration. State Representative Dave Winters (R-68th District), who is the Republican Spokesperson on the Election and Campaign Reform Committee, opposed the bill.

In an interview, Winters expressed concern that the legislation would add “another burden” on University administrators and called it a “paperwork and logistics nightmare.” Winters also explained that for many students, their “major ties were at home,” and not where they reside at the University.