Over the past eight weeks various groups on campus have collected thousands of voter registration forms, but a significant number of them have been filled out incorrectly.
Dr. Peter Wielhouwer, speaking to a national government class about voter registration, warned students that some groups on campus were collecting and turning in incorrect registration forms. The deadline for registration was on Oct. 9, meaning it is too late for those affected to make corrections and vote in the upcoming elections.
When asked, a representative of the Kalamazoo County Clerk’s Office stated that their were a significant number of incorrect voter registration forms from WMU. However, they could not confirm an exact number or the groups responsible for collecting the incorrect forms.
Denise Keele, a professor of public policy at WMU, talked about WeVote and the incorrect registration forms.
“WeVote turned in just about 2,400 forms just from our work on campus,” said Keele. “There were lots of other organizations on campus. Everything from Turning Point, which is a conservative youth organization, to NextGen which is a liberal organization. The League of Women’s Voters was helping us. I have no idea just how many voter registration forms were turned in on campus and a number of those may have been incorrect.”
She then said that, “We encourage students to fill out a form with us even if they think they’re already registered, because we don’t know, with all of the other groups, what is happening with them or where that [form] went.”
Keele went on to explain why groups might be submitting incorrect voter registration forms.
“Even through WeVote, there are a portion of forms that were not filled out correctly. On the form you have to check the box that you are a citizen, you have to sign and date it, and when I’m in front of a class of 200 doing my level best to walk them through the form, there’s always a couple of people who end up missing a box or two.”
Keele said those who have errors in their registration form will not be able to fix them in time to vote for the upcoming election.
“No, unfortunately. Michigan is sort of in the middle of the pack, some might say restrictive, in our voting policies. You have to register correctly by the deadline and it is a hard, 5 p.m,. end of business day deadline as we found out this year.”
Keele then outlined what steps people who may have turned in an incorrect form need to take. People first need to check their voter registration status at MI.gov/vote, she said. Even though it is too late to fix registration issues, many students who registered to vote in Kalamazoo were previously registered in their hometown. If a student is registered in their hometown, the website will let these people know exactly where they are registered to vote. Keele then explained that students registered in their hometowns have until Oct. 23 to request an absentee ballot.
“This isn’t an actual deadline, but it’s an issue with the post office and making sure the ballot gets where it needs to be on time,” Keele said. “We recommend that you request the ballot by Oct. 23 and that you mail it back by Nov. 1 to have a chance to be counted in the election.” The ballot needs to reach the issuing county clerk by election day.
After answering questions about voter registration and absentee ballots, Keele spent the last portion of the interview talking about why it’s important for students to vote. “When you look at voter demographics, you see that it is predominately old, white people who vote. And within that it is predominately old white men who vote. My question is why are you [students] letting old white men make decisions for you?” She then called attention to the fact that by 2020 young voters will make up the single largest demographic.
“Young people will make up 40 percent of the voting age population,” she said. “But young people don’t vote. And politicians know you don’t vote so they ignore you.” She said that the political science department is working on bringing events to WMU that will encourage young people to vote. “We’re working on a Proposal 1 panel. Prop 1 is recreational marijuana, and we think that’s something students might want to get out to vote on.”
The midterm election will be on Nov. 6. Students who live on campus and are registered to vote in Kalamazoo will be able to vote in the Bernard Center.