By Adam Baker/Editor
Students who want to make their opinion count in the upcoming elections have until Oct. 4 to register. According to Madison County Clerk Billy Gabbard, the registration process is simple.
“It takes about two minutes,” he said. “We tell them what precinct they’ll be in and where they can vote.”
Gabbard said students could vote in Madison County only if they change their permanent address to a location in the county. Students living on campus in a residence hall must use the dorms physical address, he said, not a CPO or P.O. box number.
If students change their permanent address using the registration form they must update their driver’s licenses within 10 days, Gabbard explained.
There are several ways to get registered, he said. Voter registration cards can be filled out at the county clerk’s office, at various voter registration drives throughout the community and online.
A person’s registration status, precinct location and legislative district can be found on Kentucky’s new online voter information center at www.kyelect.com. Rock the Vote’s Web site, www.rockthevote.com, also provides information about voting. The non-profit organization was started in 1990 to engage youth to get involved in the political process, according to the Web site.
Gabbard said students registering with an Eastern address would vote at the Baptist Student Union.
Students who don’t want to change their permanent address must vote in their home county. Eastern has canceled classes Nov. 2 for election day but if students still cannot make it home, Gabbard encourages them to request an application for an absentee application.
“They can call or their parents can call and request the application,” he said. “Mail it back, and a ballot will come in and you mail that back.”
Students must request the application from the county clerk’s office in their hometown. The deadline to return the application is Oct. 26.
“Everybody needs to vote,” he said. “I think last time we had about a 66- percent (voter turnout). I figure this year will be at least 70 percent.”
Kristin Lawson, a junior psychology major from Lexington and member of the League of Women Voters, spent this weekend with fellow group members at various registration drives across the county. “It was a little frustrating,” she said. “Some people didn’t want to register to vote.” The organization registered 131 people, she said.
“If you don’t use your rights you forfeit them,” she said. “We live in a democracy and we have to exercise our right in order to keep that democracy going.”
Sarah Ziegler, director of the women’s students program and a professor in the government department, said voting is a person’s way of “having a voice.”
“We saw in the 2000 election that one vote really does make a difference,” she said. “We don’t take part in policy making … this is our avenue to participate in the process.”
Ziegler said American’s take their right to vote for granted. She explained European countries have a 90-percent voter turnout compared to less than 50 percent here.
“I think we’ve just gotten comfortable … we don’t take that right seriously and exercise it.”
She added the 18-25 age group has the lowest voter turnout.
“So that means older people are disproportionately influencing the process,” she said.
Zeigler said issues like the war in Iraq and the gay marriage amendment in Kentucky should bring many out to the polls.
Reach Adam at