February 22, 2011

Electoral college

Students should consider registering to vote in Illinois

Today, the people of Chicago will go to the polls to elect their local alderman and the city’s next mayor. Even though this election will likely have serious consequences for the future of the city and of Hyde Park, very few U of C students will participate in the process. Even though the mayor and city council both wield significant influence over students’ experiences in Chicago, only a small subset of the students not from the Chicago area ever consider changing their voter registration to participate in local elections. Because the choice of alderman has significant consequences for Hyde Park as a whole, students should take an active interest in the process, and consider registering to vote in Chicago elections.

Community development is a common student concern, and the election of local aldermen can change our neighborhood’s approach to development. Aldermen make numerous decisions regarding taxes and regulation, and help determine whether or not their area is hospitable to new businesses. Students criticize Hyde Park’s lack of options for dining and night life, but rarely take an active role in local politics, which is one of the ways that these problems can be resolved.

U of C students make up a substantial portion of those eligible to vote in the 4th and 5th wards. In theory, they should be a constituency whose concerns are taken seriously by the city government. However, by remaining registered in their hometowns, they essentially encourage candidates for city council to ignore their interests and demands. And it’s not like altering one’s registration requires serious effort—anyone who is over 18 and who has lived in the area for more than 30 days can register either by mailing in the form or submitting it online.

A Chipotle in Hyde Park is not the only thing students stand to gain by taking an interest in local elections. Hopefully, getting involved in city council politics will catalyze interest in Hyde Park issues. There is a woeful lack of integration between the U of C community and the neighborhood; for many students, Hyde Park is not so much home as it is a place they stay for a few years before moving on. But it doesn’t have to be so. Students don’t have to be isolated from the community as a whole, and an easy way to bridge this divide involves taking an interest in the politics of the area.

So, consider changing your registration and becoming involved in local politics, even if your involvement doesn’t go beyond voting in the occasional election. After all, students are residents of Hyde Park too, and their voices and votes should count when it comes to planning the neighborhood’s future.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.