Voter registration, education push at DePaul for midterm election

First-year students at DePaul are presented with a plethora of new opportunities: Classes, organizations, all that city life in Chicago has to offer and for many, the chance to vote for the first time.

The Office of Student Involvement and the Student Leadership Institute at DePaul have made a push to make the voter registration and voting process as simple as possible, making it easy especially for new students to understand the process. OSI handles voting education while SLI handles registration.

“Over the summer, I worked with other leadership development coordinators as well as some of the professional staff in SLI to give incoming freshmen attending orientation the opportunity to register to vote,” Mehdi Bichri, senior management information services major and SLI leadership development coordinator, said.

“I think that the reason it was such a successful initiative is because we made it very quick and easy for students to register either in the state of Illinois or in their home state,” Bichri said. “We had a knowledgeable staff and once the confusion and difficulty about voter registration disappeared, a lot of students were eager to register.”

Since June, SLI assisted with the voter registration of 1,437 students. Of that number, 76 percent registered in Illinois.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, only 24 percent of 18-29 year-olds voted in the 2010 midterm elections in Illinois, matching the U.S. average. Overall turnout in Illinois in 2010 was 51 percent of registered voters.

Kamila Zaremba, a freshman studying secondary education history, took advantage of SLI’s voter registration during her orientation in July and registered to vote in Chicago.

“There was the option of doing it, so I did it,” Zaremba, originally from Oak Lawn, said.

Grayson Keliehor, a freshman from Dubai chose to wait until next year to register to vote.

“I’ll be getting my own apartment, and I’ll feel more situated here,” Keliehor, an international studies major, said. “This year with living in the dorms, I just wanted to get a feel for living in America first.”

Though registration was simple, it left some students confused.

“I think I am (registered to vote),” Veronica Klco, a freshman marketing major, said. “I don’t know if I’ll vote, I don’t know anything (about the election).”

OSI works to alleviate this confusion for students.

“Our big mission is to educate students so they can make educated decisions,” Kristin Hagen, coordinator for educational programs and communications in the Office of Student Involvement, said.

Hagen and the rest of OSI works on the educational side of the election process, getting students fully informed before they vote for potentially the first time.

“If you’re 18 or you’re 58, voting can be confusing,” Hagen said. “It’s important to get students a level platform, so they can make their own educated decisions.”

OSI sent Illinois Student Voting Guides to students who live on campus with information on what’s needed when going to the polls and information on absentee voting. The office also sent out a mailer with information on the candidates broken down by specific issues.

“Sometimes the commercials you see on TV are confusing because you see one commercial saying ‘Pat Quinn’s the worst’ and then you see another saying ‘Bruce Rauner’s the worst,’ “ Hagen said. “(The mailers) are bipartisan, they’re not saying ‘vote Democrat’ or ‘vote Republican’ or ‘vote libertarian,’ they’re just a good way to say, ‘Here are the issues, you can pick and choose what’s important to you.’ ”

MAP: Living on-campus and registered to vote? Here’s where you need to go

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