Consider switching your voter registration to Missouri

This Tuesday, local elections took place in districts across Missouri: in Clayton, in University City, in St. Louis. You probably didn’t vote, and you’re not alone if you spent the day studying in Whispers or writing a paper instead. In fact, only about 90,000 people in all of St. Louis County showed up to cast their votes Tuesday.

But completely ignoring local politics shows a unique kind of indifference. Wash. U. students don’t tend to think of themselves as politically apathetic; most vote in their home states for general elections, discuss candidates with friends, or read about campaigns in newspapers. But by only voting in the state you come from (if you actually take the time to fill out an absentee ballot), you limit your political impact during your time in this city.

Registering to vote in Missouri is one of the easiest and most direct ways to influence local issues here. We discuss problems in St. Louis all the time—its struggling schools or inadequate public services. What we don’t realize often enough is that by simply filing a change-of-address form, we have the opportunity to effect positive change in a city that we often just consider a case study. We don’t have to look far back to find examples of Wash. U. students having an impact on local elections. Two years ago, students were a critical part of a community that mobilized to increase funding for MetroLink transportation; even if those who voted no longer reside in St. Louis, they left the area with a smaller carbon footprint and a more convenient Metro system for future students.

Not only will registering in St. Louis allow you to become actively involved in this city, but Missouri’s status as a swing state also could make your vote more meaningful in a general election. Many students hail from states where votes tend to fall strictly along party lines. Whether you’re from deep red Texas or bright blue Illinois, you know that small patches of votes rarely determine an outcome. In Missouri, however, the 2008 vote for president was given to McCain by a margin of 0.1 percent. Most students, whether of liberal or conservative ideologies, have a greater chance of influencing the elections of national political figures when they vote here.

As an added benefit, St. Louis county makes voting incredibly easy for Wash. U. students. Many organizations including CS40, College Democrats and College Republicans are authorized to host voter registration drives; students can fill out all the appropriate paperwork at their dorm room doors. For elections on strictly local measures, students can vote at Wydown Middle School, a minute’s walk from the South 40; and in national elections Ursa’s is often transformed into a polling place. It can be as simple as making a one-minute stop on your way to class.

By switching your voter registration to Missouri for the next few years, you have the chance to have a significant effect on local and national politics at negligible personal cost. Having a vested interest in the city you live in doesn’t always require a labor-intensive service project or charitable donation; it can mean nothing more than filling out one form. So the next time people ask you if you’re interested in registering in Missouri, think twice before you turn them away.

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