SA calls for student participation at the polls


Election Day 2012 is fast approaching, and the SDSU Students’ Association is trying to help students register to vote.

Between Oct. 1 and 5, SA held its first unofficial voter registration drive in The Union. Efforts have been ongoing since early in the semester, however, and will continue through Election Day. The SA’s main goal this year is to help educate students about the elections and the various ballot measures in the state.

“It’s mostly been an education process,” said State and Local Government chair Jameson Goetz.

In South Dakota students who are attending school in the state can register to vote using their school address, whether it’s on campus or off. That allows students to vote on Election Day without having to return to their home towns, even if they’re non-residents. That means that students have the opportunity to vote on local matters as well as national and state issues.

“I’m actually from Minnesota and I vote here in Brookings,” said SA Senator Michael Rouhenhorst. “So it’s wherever your primary residence is.”

So far SA’s efforts, much like other voter registration efforts throughout the country, haven’t been met with as much enthusiasm as in 2008, according to Goetz. In fact Goetz said many students seem to be more excited about a pair of state ballot measures and not so much for the candidates themselves.

Rouhenhorst, however, said there has been somewhat more enthusiasm than in 2010 for the midterm elections.

“I think there’s more enthusiasm this year just by the fact that it’s a presidential election,” Rouhenhorst said.

Initiated Measure 15 and Referred Law 16 both carry some significant weight. Initiated Measure 15 would add an additional 1 percent to the state sales tax that would be split between K-12 education and Medicaid.  Referred Law 16 is the education reform act passed by the legislature commonly known as HB1234. The referral of the law is an effort to stop it from going into effect.

Goetz said he would like to see more students get involved with local politics, where they have potential to have a bigger impact. As evidence Goetz pointed to the money available to students from the Brookings 3B tax. SA senator Hasan Ali and others agreed.

Ali also referenced the SA efforts on behalf of the Good Samaritan law that would allow underage students who have been drinking to call for emergency assistance without fear of prosecution. The bill has been defeated twice in the state legislature, but Rouhenhorst said more student involvement on the issue could be key to getting it passed during the next legislative session.

“We tried getting (students) more excited about voting here,” Ali said.

Goetz also encouraged other student organizations to present information to students about issues they are concerned about.

SA’s efforts moving toward Election Day could include early voting efforts like creating a shuttle to the county courthouse for early voting and shuttles to voting precincts to help students vote on Election Day.

“Last week we had a campus wide voter registration drive, we’re also going to have two days where we bus students to the court house to register to vote and vote at the same time,” Ali said.

Students can also stop by the SA office in The Union if they need help registering to vote or with absentee ballots. The deadline to register to vote in South Dakota this year is Oct. 22.