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Westminster community emphasizes importance of Midterm elections

As Americans across the nation prepare to cast their ballot in the 2022 Midterm elections, Westminster College students, especially those who are out-of-state, have voting resources available to them, according to Mariah Trujillo, the student intern for the Dumke Center for Civic Engagement and a senior environmental studies major, justice studies minor.

“All students at Westminster […] who are voter eligible can register to vote in Utah if, for some reason, their deadline passes [in their home state],” Trujillo said. “You can always vote in Utah, and voting in Utah is better than not voting.” 

Trujillo said Utah offers same-day registration and voting, a feature 18 out of 50 states allow, according to an article published by The New York Times. The process requires two forms of identification, such as an ID and birth certificate, or social security card and a passport, according to Trujillo. This type of voting is completed with a provisional ballot, according to The New York Times. 

A provisional ballot, also known as an affidavit ballot, is kept separate from other ballots until after the election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A determination is then made as to whether the voter was eligible to vote, and therefore whether the ballot is to be counted, according to the NCSL. 

“[Same-day registration and voting is] what I would recommend for students who maybe forget or miss their deadline in their home state,” Trujillo said. “If your deadline passes, you can register in Utah until the day of the election. You just have to [register] in person.”

Trujillo said the Dumke Center always has voter registration forms, located in Bassis Student Center 107. 

“I think one thing […] about the Dumke Center that’s great is that we really encourage students to stay involved politically and socially, before the election, during the election and after the election, because voting is not the end-all be-all for civic engagement,” Trujillo said.

Helen Moser and Jeanine Kuhn-Coker, director of voting services and director of development for the League of Women Voters respectively, chat with Mariah Trujillo, the student intern for the Dumke Center for Civic Engagement and a senior environmental studies major, justice studies minor, during the Dumke Day of Service in Bassis Student Center on Oct. 6. The two organizations first banded together in 2020 for the presidential election, and have since had “a really strong partnership,” according to Trujillo. Photo courtesy of Zidia Gibson. Image description: Three people stand and talk with a blue League of Women Voters banner in the background.

The League of Women Voters On Campus

Students also have access to the League of Women Voters of Utah, with whom the Dumke Center has “a really strong partnership,” according to Mariah Trujillo, a student intern for the Dumke Center and a senior environmental studies major with a justice studies minor. The two organizations first banded together for the 2020 presidential election, Trujillo said.

Jeanine Kuhn-Coker, director of development, and Helen Moser, director of voting services, tabled on behalf of the LWV Utah during the Dumke Day of Service on Oct. 6. 

Kuhn-Coker and Moser said their involvement in advocacy and activism spans 20 years of experience registering voters, lobbying at the Utah Capitol, observing local and Capitol meetings and sending out action alerts to community members.

“Voter education, voter registration have been the hallmark of the League since we were founded in 1920,” Moser said. “So even though we are a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, we do take positions […] and we advocate both for and against [issues].”

The LWV is not related to a specific political party, legislator, Congress person or council member, but rather a “grassroots effort” to formulate positions with the input of all members, according to Moser.

“Our desire is really to just get people to participate in their democracy,” Moser said.

Kuhn-Coker said the LWV often hosts voter registration drives on college campuses to specifically target young adults. The population that’s historically voted the least is 18- to 24-year-olds, according to Kuhn-Coker. 

In 2016, 48% of college students voted, a rate significantly lower than the 61% national average for all Americans, according to a Democracy Counts 2017 report published by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education. 

This trend, however, is changing, according to a Democracy Counts 2020 report. The national student voting rate in 2020 reached 66%, “nearly matching the Census-based voter turnout estimate, 67%, for the entire U.S. population,” according to the report.

“This year, there’s so many issues that are energizing […], that are touch points for students,” Moser said. “We just need to help [18- to 24-year-olds] convert that, either energy or anxiety, into action. They just have to show up and participate in the election to have their voice heard.”

Voting In-State versus Out-of-State

Megan Uria, a sophomore nursing major, is from Boise, Idaho, and said living and attending school in a different state makes voting difficult. 

“I feel like, since I live [in Utah], I’m not super involved in the politics of Idaho, so like, I don’t even know who I would vote for,” Uria said. “If I was really passionate about one of the candidates, I would probably put a lot more effort into trying to get the ballot.”

Uria said she would consider voting in Utah as a Utah resident because “it’s a lot more convenient. It affects me a little bit more.”

Idaho is one of 18 states which allow same-day registration and voting, according to an article by The New York Times; however, voting via absentee ballot is different. Absentee voting allows voters to cast their ballot before Election Day by mail or a drop box, according to USAGov’s absentee and early voting webpage.

Out-of-state voters need to be registered before requesting an absentee ballot, according to Idaho’s Secretary of State webpage. Voters must then fill out and submit the application to the County Clerk in the county the elector resides in Idaho 11 days before the election date, according to the website.

Uria said “it’d be nice” if Idaho automatically mailed ballots to voters, like Utah.

“I’m sure there’s definitely political motives behind why they don’t make voting more accessible, especially in Idaho,” Uria said. 

Henry Pernichele, a junior economics major, said he lives and votes in Utah. 

“Utah is one of the few red states that does mail-in voting,” Pernichele said. “It’s been pretty straightforward, because I just sent a ballot to my home address, and then I dropped it off at one of a bunch of different locations.”

Utah’s voting process ranks the state No. 8 in a list of top 10 easiest states to vote, according to Cost of Voting in the American States: 2022.

Pernichele said he grew up in a household that talked about politics and discussed social issues, which led him to intern at the Utah Democratic Party this semester. At his job, Pernichele said he reaches out to voters to talk about candidates and conducts research on the various democratic races and opponents.

“We try to target everyone that’s in Utah, but oftentimes, we will divide outreach programs by a certain demographic,” Pernichele said. “We specifically try to target college-age students and young adults to talk about voting and why it’s so important, especially in a midterm election.”

This graph shows the top 10 and bottom 10 states ranked by voting ease for residents. “Utah is one of the few red states that does mail-in voting,” said Henry Pernichele, a junior economics major and intern for the Utah Democratic Party. “It’s been pretty straightforward, because I’m just sent a ballot to my home address, and then I drop it off at one of a bunch of different locations.”
Information courtesy of Cost of Voting in the American States: 2022. Graph courtesy of Vanessa Eveleth.

Midterm elections are crucial because the legislation decided on and passed by candidates on the state-level has a greater impact on one’s day-to-day life, according to Pernichele.

“A lot of what is decided in politics is completely outside of the range of the president,” Pernichele said. “So when you have a lot of these local legislative races, those people that you elect are actually going to be the ones that make a lot of policy [and who] are going to be operating more targeted specifically in your community.”

This doesn’t mean presidential elections aren’t important, Pernichele said, but “one person can only do so much because we live in the United States with a system of checks and balances.”

“Congress, the Senate, the House of Representatives and things like your local legislators are just as important, if not more important than the powers of the president,” Pernichele said. “They deal with the actual creating [and signing] of laws, and, you know, some of the more boring technical, heavy stuff that actually results in a policy changing the lives of people.”

Pernichele said being aware of the ins and outs of midterm elections can also hold politicians accountable. 

“State legislature really doesn’t get a lot of attention. And because it doesn’t get a lot of attention, a lot of things slip through the radar that normally wouldn’t,” Pernichele said. 

Candidates who run in uncontested seats, but may not be qualified for their position, have less media coverage and therefore don’t face as much public scrutiny, according to Pernichele.

Pernichele said his message to fellow Westminster College students who choose to vote in Utah is simple: every vote matters now. 

“As time has gone on, a lot of the races in Utah this year are actually surprisingly close,” Pernichele said. “Just [those] 30 minutes that it would take to learn about every candidate, vote and send your ballot in, can have a tremendous impact on the landscape of Utah and what the policies affecting your day-to-day life will be like.” 

For students who wish to become politically involved, email Henry Pernichele at hdp1211@westminstercollege.edu or Mariah Trujillo at mat1215@westminstercollege.edu.

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Zidia Gibson is a junior communication major and a film studies minor with a love for telling stories. She is proud to be the coordinator for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Life program on campus and to write for The Honorable Mention. She loves petting any cat she sees, hiking the valley and rock climbing with friends, playing video games, and visiting local coffee shops every other day

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