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Kelly Harris--Editorial

Kelly Harris--Editorial

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Published by: PublicWriting on May 02, 2011
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Kelly HarrisFredrik deBoerWRT 303March 7, 2011EditorialEstablishing a Polling Place at URIIts the first Tuesday in November, a seemingly normal day for students at the Universityof Rhode Island. They go to classes until mid-afternoon, then proceed to go to work or the gymor even sports practices. However, many students that reside in Rhode Island are missing theircivic duty that accompanies this particular daythe civic duty of voting. In a poll conducted byCBS News, U-WIRE and the Chronicle of Higher Education, a mere 1/3 of students inbattleground states (CO, NC, OH, and PA) were politically active. Even in states where theirvotes could make a significant impact upon the election results, students chose not to vote.However, according to Elyse Ashburn, a senior editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education,among the same population of students polled in the battleground states, 94% of thosestudents were registered to vote. This lack of participation has been shown to plague not onlybattleground states, but rather the entire countryRhode Island included. The most sensibleoption to combat this political lethargy is to establish polling places at state universities,specifically the University of Rhode Island.If URI students who reside in Rhode Island were given the option to vote on campus, it isvery likely that voting rates would increase exponentially. This can be supported through thetheory known as the calculus of voting, which predicts voting behavior. The formula for the
 
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calculus of voting, as stated by Dr. Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz, is as follows:
    
. In this equation, y represents the likelihood of voting, a represents the initiallikelihood of voting (constant), and
,
,

, and
represent psychological benefits, timecosts, monetary costs, and information costs, respectively. Establishing a polling place wouldincrease the psychological benefits of voting as it would make students feel good aboutthemselves because they participated in the democratic process and contributed to society.Also, by giving RI residents the ability to vote at their school, it will give them a sense of belonging and community, thus benefiting their psyche. Creating a polling place at URI wouldalso greatly decrease the time and monetary costs of voting for students. Instead of having tomake the time during their day to travel to their home polling district and back, students wouldonly have to give a few minutes of their time to vote on-campus. Also, traveling to their homepolling district requires students to pay transportation costs. With the rising cost of gas, thisdeters many from voting. However, voting on campus would be free of cost. Finally,establishing a polling place at URI would decrease the information cost of voting as freenewspapers are provided throughout the campus to skim prior to voting instead of studentshaving to read before traveling home to vote and retaining the information for a lengthy periodof time. When all factors of the equation are considered and combined, the likelihood of RIresident-student voting would greatly increase if a polling place was to be created at URI.On a simpler level than the calculus of voting, people are going to be more likely to voteif it is more convenient for them. URI already has multiple venues that could easilyaccommodate the voting process. The ballroom in the Memorial Union, for example, is acentrally located area which can be accessed by people of all needs. As it houses a plethora of 
 
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student services such as dining, the mailroom, the bookstore, etc, its very likely that studentswould enter the memorial union anyway on an average day. Thus, the act of voting isintegrated into ones daily activity versus having to make a special trip/exude the effort to drivehome for a process that only takes 5-10 minutes. Additionally, by establishing a polling place oncampus, it will make students feel as if their vote is valued and therefore lead them to vote.According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States population currently lies at310,943,230 people. Thats 310,943,230 potential voters. When faced with such a staggeringpopulation, many college students are left with the enduring question, does my vote reallymatter? With a total enrollment of 19,102,184 people in degree-granting institutions in Fall2008 (Digest of Education Statistics 2009), its clear that that vote of the college student doesmatter and has the potential to significantly sway the results of an election. URI has 13,000undergraduate students and 3,000 graduate students enrolled, making a total of 16,000enrolled students. Out of the 16,000, 60% are Rhode Island residents. As such, this leaves apotential 9,600 votes to be gained if this part of the electorate is mobilized through theestablishment of a polling place here at URI. Additionally, by establishing a polling place at URI,the state of Rhode Island would be reaching out to the student population, exemplifying thattheir vote is important to both the state, as well as the nation. By showing students that theirvote really does count, they are then much more likely to be politically active and vote.On a more personal level for students, establishing a polling place will directly benefitURI as a university as well as a community. On Election Day, people vote for so much more thansimply their representatives. Often, additional questions and propositions are asked on the

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