Overcoming voting barriers for the primaries

Aubrey Lathrop

With the Illinois primary election coming up on March 17, various organizations at Augustana hosted voter registration events.

Despite these efforts, many students are still intimidated by the voting process and out-of-state students have even more limited resources to understand voting registration.

Many students are first-time voters, and these organizations are attempting to provide resources and help for the registration process.

Research and Instruction Librarian Lauryn Lehman played a role in helping organize Thomas Tredway Library’s voter registration events.

At the events, students registered online but Lehman and Maria Emerson, a fellow librarian, were available to answer any questions and clear up confusion.

A lot of questions were received from students at the library events.

“One of the biggest questions is not even knowing where they’re allowed to register. Beyond that, a lot of students were questioning how they’ll get to and from polling places,” Lehman said.

“The other question a lot had was related to how the absentee ballot process works. That involves a lot of steps that can be hurdles for students to reach because not only is it time and money, but the effort involved to vote becomes much more substantial,” Lehman said about the library event.

Senior Maggie Jokinen is a political science/economics major at Augustana.

“Definitely for freshmen, a big barrier is transportation. I really wish that we had some kind of shuttle service to go to the voting sites because if you’re registered in Westie, we all have the same voting site,” Jokinen said.

However, she went on to explain that Augustana is combating transportation issues by holding an early voting station in the Gerber Center from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm on Wednesday, March 11 for those registered to vote in Rock Island County.

A lack of information on out-of-state voting can make the voting process difficult for some students. “People voting in Iowa, it looks very different from people voting in Illinois, so I think having resources of all the other places that students are from [would be helpful],” junior Christianne Albers said.

Albers is an out-of-state student who has gone through the voting process on campus through an absentee ballot.

“I didn’t always understand the wording in the ballot, which is where I wish I had more resources like, ‘What does this mean?’ and having to do my own research on what specifically they’re asking for in each question,” Albers said about the voting process.

Some confusion can arise when registering to vote as an out-of-state student.

“It’s hard because something like 85% of our campus is from the Chicago suburbs, so it’s really easy to overlook the out of state students, which is understandable,  Jokinen said.

“But I think it would be great if Augustana provided more information about absentee ballots and registering to vote in your home state,” Jokinen said.

The level that students are informed varies widely across campus.

“As students were walking by, the majority of students we asked, ‘Are you registered to vote?’ said yes. So I do think a large number of students are registered, but many are still sort of unfamiliar with the process,” Lehman said.

Some believe that the campus remains politically uninformed due to lack of motivation.

“Most college campuses are very liberal, and because most college campuses are liberal, and liberals feel like we’re in a majority, we feel comfortable. There’s not much motivation to learn more about voting or learn more about your beliefs,” Jokinen said.

A vote can mean a lot of different things to students.

“Their vote really does matter. But either they’re too busy or they feel like they don’t know enough to vote and I think that’s something we really need to work on as a campus and as a nation,” Jokinen said.

Illinois students can register with their dorm address and then vote in Rock Island.

If students would rather have their vote go to their home county, then they can also go to vote.org and request an absentee ballot. It will then be emailed to you to print off and fill out.

The ballots must be postmarked one day before the election, March 17 in Illinois, in order to count.