If you haven’t noticed, it’s election season. Have you escaped the never-ending presence of political ads? Do you see an interesting blend of Halloween decorations and candidate yard signs around your community? Is your phone ringing more than normal from unrecognizable numbers? These are all signs another election is upon us. All of this can create a sense of exhaustion or excitement. Personally, I have always cherished the right to vote and engage in our democracy. Having turned 18 three weeks before the 1984 presidential election, I was a senior in high school when I first had the opportunity to vote. My daughter is disappointed she has to sit on the sidelines for this election, but come February she will be ready to use her voice.
For college students, the election season is a time that may seem no different than any other season. Young adults often do not participate in elections and thus issues that are important to them may not be advanced by elected officials. The Pew Research Center notes that younger voters make up a majority of the electorate but often do not vote. Their report stated young voters “have a track record of low turnout in midterms compared with older generations when they were the same age.” The election process can be confusing. Students are living away from home, and depending upon their state of residence, where they vote is a core decision they have to navigate. Students at Luther can register to vote in the state of Iowa (or, if Iowa residents, they can register locally). Also, students likely can vote in their home districts via absentee ballot.
My wife works at another Iowa college and stays in that community during the week. She received her absentee ballot last week, and I dropped off her ballot this week at the Winneshiek County Courthouse. While doing so, I also voted early—something I had not done previously. I have always enjoyed the energy of election day, but I wanted to experience one of the options we have shared with students. Our county courthouse is located in downtown Decorah and it’s a quick drive (and reasonable walk). It took me all of 10 minutes to get my ballot, choose candidates, and cast my ballot. I am now part of a growing population of U.S. citizens who vote early in elections where possible.
Students will have an even more convenient opportunity to vote next Tuesday, October 23, when Luther will host a local satellite polling location. We have worked with our county auditor over the years to ensure students have the greatest possible access to this right of citizenry. We’ve also provided concise, clear instructions to vote so that the Iowa requirements can be understood. If you are inclined to nudge your student to vote, a good suggestion is to encourage them to vote Tuesday in the Dahl Centennial Union between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
While our country is deeply divided across political lines, voting itself should not be a partisan issue. Rather, it’s a calling to be engaged in shaping our communities, states, and country. Sitting on the sidelines, from my perspective, should not be an option.
I’ve provided below information I sent to students on September 27 (also available on this web page). They have received announcements via the Bulletin, and voter registration campaigns have been taking place on campus since August.
Ask them if they’ve seen the information. And then ask them, if they are eligible, are they going to vote?
To: Luther students
From: Corey Landstrom, vice president and dean for student life
Re: Voter registration and election information
Date: Sept. 27, 2018
Eligible students are encouraged to vote in the upcoming election Nov. 6. Iowa pre-registration is open until Oct. 27. To pre-register, students can visit the Winneshiek County Courthouse or download and complete the State of Iowa Official Voter Registration Form and bring or send it to the Winneshiek County Auditor’s Office, 201 W. Main St., Decorah, IA, 52101. To complete the form, students must list their campus address (building, room number and SPO number) and the last four digits of their Social Security Number.
To register on election day (or after Oct. 27), students must provide proof of residence and ID. All students will receive a proof of residence letter via email on Oct. 28 and the Luther College Student ID may be used as proof of ID; you can present the letter on your phone or print it out in advance. The ID you present must have an expiration date printed on it. If you need to use your Luther student ID and do not have an expiration date printed on it, you can replace it between Oct. 1 and 12 for $15 in the Dining Services Office. Outside of those dates, the normal ID replacement fee of $25 is in effect.
Early voting begins Oct. 8 and students can complete their ballot at the Auditor’s Office, download an absentee ballot request form (you must be pre-registered to receive an absentee ballot), or vote at the satellite polling station on campus 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, in Dahl Centennial Union.
For those who plan to vote on election day-Tuesday, Nov. 6-the polling station for Luther students is Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Iowa Street. If you pre-registered to vote and are not an Iowa resident, you should bring your Iowa Voter ID card with you. If you are a resident of Iowa, your Iowa driver’s license or state ID will serve as proof of ID. If you can’t locate either of the forms of ID on election day, you would be able to present the proof of residency letter and a picture ID with an expiration date, such as the Luther student ID.
Updating voter registration
One final note: If you have previously registered but have moved residence halls, you may need to update your voter registration. All of the details and deadlines above are applicable to updating your prior registration (if necessary).