Voter registration drives to give more voice to students

Katrina Sargent

Katrina Sargent

Scott Munsterman, Tim Reed, Mike Bartley, Ryan Brunner, Ginger Thomson, Julie Whaley and Tom Bezdichek. Do any of these names sound familiar?

Scott Munsterman, the mayor of Brookings, along with the rest make up the Brookings City Council.

Out of the thousands of SDSU students living in Brookings, only a few hundred of them actually vote and take part in local government.

The Students’ Association and Dakota Rural Action aim to change the current trend.

The goal is to have 1,000 students register or reregister for the Brookings City vote in April, said Amanda Mattingly, an organizer from the Brookings chapter of Dakota Rural Action. “We want to get information to students about the issues to help them make informed decisions,” she said. “We are not endorsing candidates, just informing about the issues.”

The voter registration drive is still in the planning stage, said Sam Nelson, the state and local government chair of SA. Some future plans include a dorm storm, booths in The Union, ads, posters and candidate forums.

According to a power point slide show from Dakota Rural Action, in 2006, 21 percent of the electorate was made up of 18- to 29-year-old citizens.

According to the same slide show, students could have influenced some issues, including the Third B tax, Sunday alcohol sales, housing issues and economic development.

Other things the city council has power over are money paid for hospital bills, utilities and liquor. Liquor licenses are also affected; for every 1,000 people who fill out a census form, one liquor license is granted.

The goal of these voter registration drives is to give more voice and impact to students, said Nelson.

“If this goes well, we’ll keep going through the general elections,” Mattingly said. “We’d really like to see students engaged and involved at the local, state and national levels.”

South Dakota allows voters to register up to 15 days prior to an election. Nelson foresees a lot of activity leading up to the vote, with a big push 20 to 30 days before.

SA and Dakota Rural Action met with on-campus groups to discuss having voter registration drives.

This movement started with SA President Alex Brown. One of his goals is for students to be more involved.