Professors, students weigh in on students registering to vote

Pennsylvania voters will go to the polls on Nov. 8, for the 2022 Midterm elections, during which voters will elect candidates to the offices of Pennsylvania governor and lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate, U.S House of Representatives, Pennsylvania State Senate, Pennsylvania House of Representatives and more. The last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 24, 2022. Allegheny students are eligible to vote if they are U.S. citizens and are at least 18 years old. 

Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies Mark Cosdon has worked to register voters on-campus and in the greater Meadville community for many years. 

“In the first weeks of each fall semester I encourage students to vote — in my classes and in the Playshop Theatre’s Orientation sessions,” Cosdon said in a written statement. “I usually have registration forms available and online links … I think it’s crucial to register these voters so that they become engaged and participating members each voting cycle.”

President of College Democrats Christopher Ratliff, ’24, plans to carry on the practice of demystifying the voter registration process by hosting tabling for voter registration and providing hands-on assistance to interested students. Ratliff believes all eligible Allegheny students should vote. 

Voting is a privilege and a duty as a citizen to have representation for your interests,” Ratliff said in a written statement. “Currently, in Pennsylvania, there are many issues candidates have concrete stances on, especially abortion, gun control and education. Whatever your views may be, it is important to vote to express your opinions and beliefs.” 

Ratliff said that College Democrats help register students regardless of their political affiliations. 

“I think it’s important to vote no matter what you identify as, whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent,” Ratliff said in a written statement. “All students should be able to vote for who they want, and voting shouldn’t be a partisan issue.” 

The Allegheny Center for Political Participation and the Andrew Goodman Foundation regularly host events in partnership to teach students about the importance of political participation and to assist students in registering to vote. The Center for Political Participation’s website states that it focuses on providing opportunities for civic learning that teach students about “important issues, events, institutions, and patterns of behavior that relate to complex questions of local, regional, national, and international consequence.” The Andrew Goodman Foundation works to “empower the next generation to initiate and sustain creative and effective social change” and to “advance civic engagement and intergenerational coalitions,” according to its site. The groups plan to host tabling events to answer students’ questions and assist them in registering to vote before the Oct. 24 deadline. 

“Often college students are among demographics who are left out of the voting process,” CPP Fellow Bintou Fofana, ’24, said in a written statement. “If students stop voting it will give politicians more reason to take that right away. College students have a civic duty to engage in society and the political process.”

Under Pennsylvania law, out-of-state students are allowed to register to vote in Pennsylvania using their college residential address. Cosdon ensures his students are aware of this.

Many (of my students) opt to register locally to vote, knowing that across the next four years issues in Crawford County will directly impact them,” Cosdon said. 

Ratliff believes this is the right thing to do. 

We are residents of Meadville and should have the ability to vote and have representation within the community,” Ratliff said.

Students can register to vote by going to the Pennsylvania Voter Services website and filling out the Voter Registration Application. The application requires basic information, like name, birthday, political party affiliation and contact information. If registering to vote in Meadville, students should use their on-campus housing address as their official residential address and should use their school mailing address — which can be found in Self-Service — as their official mailing address. In place of the Pennsylvania driver’s license that in-state students will upload, out-of-state students will input the last four digits of their Social Security Number and upload a picture of their signature. 

If any out-of-state students had previously registered to vote in another state, they will need to submit a Voter Registration Cancellation form to that state after their new registration has been approved. 

Once students’ registrations are approved, they will receive the location of their polling place. Fofana said that the CPP plans to organize shuttles on Election Day to transport students to the polling location. 

If students are not able to physically go to the polling place, they can request a mail-in ballot by going to the Pennsylvania Voter Services website. They must request the mail-in ballot by 5 p.m. on Nov. 1, and must mail their filled-out ballot in time for it to arrive at the county election board by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8. For students who opt for a mail-in ballot, the best practice would be to return it as soon as possible. 

If students want to register to vote but are confused by the process, Fofana recommends students attend the various voter registration events hosted by the Center for Political Participation. She also encourages students to reach out to the Center for Political Success fellows, Andrew Goodman Ambassadors or Associate Professor of Political Science Andrew Bloeser <[email protected]> for more support if necessary.