Registration tables belong in ballroom

NIU student Regent Nick Valadez has proposed making voter registration part of class registration procedures in the Holmes Student Center Ballroom.

Before anyone says, “But I’m already registered to vote at home,” be honest about this. It’s unlikely there are many people at NIU who can say they consistently vote by absentee ballot. Absentee voters have to plan ahead—both to have a ballot and to be sure it’s received on time. It’s much easier to go to a polling place a few blocks away.

While the current crisis in higher education funding has been the spur to make student voter registration a campus priority, the need is not limited to that issue.

The right to vote is fundamental to this society. Democracy exists because of the vote. If only a few people exercise their voting privilege, then only a few people run the country. And that’s not what American democracy is all about. That’s why the voting privilege has been extended during the history of this nation to include as much of the population as possible.

That doesn’t mean people should be forced to register or forced to exercise their right to vote. What it means is that everyone must recognize the importance of the privilege and stop taking it for granted. If enough people consistently fail to exercise their voting right over a long enough time, the right could well be lost.

NIU has recognized the importance of voter registration by providing a table on the way out of the ballroom. But it’s too easy to ignore. The only thought in most people’s heads is finding just one place where they don’t have to stand in line for anything.

That’s why a table inside the ballroom is a good idea. While everyone is waiting in line for five hours to get classes, they’ll see other students registering. They will hear, “Have you registered yet?” so many times, they’ll at least have to give the idea some well-deserved thought. Think of it as something worthwhile to do with all the time normally wasted waiting to add and drop classes.