ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — There is a plan in Annapolis to get more college students to the polls by bringing the polls to them.
The Student Voter Empowerment Act would require colleges and universities with more than 4,200 undergraduates to put polling places on campus.
Advocates argue that colleges and universities teach students about government so it seems the next logical step is to teach participation.
“There are so many different barriers that prevent students from voting,” said Ireland Lesley, the president of the University of Maryland College Park’s student body. “It’s information, it’s access, transportation and University of Maryland College Park has worked a lot to create different policies to remove those barriers.”
Eight campuses in Maryland meet the requirements outlined in the bill: Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Towson University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Maryland College Park, Bowie State University, Frostburg State University and Salisbury University.
“One of the most important provisions in the bill,” said sponsor Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery), “is that for the first time we’ll require that our largest campuses have on-campus polling places. Many of our students today don’t have cars, they don’t have the ability to travel long distances to vote. So making sure they have an on-campus polling place, making that voting convenient for college students is an absolutely essential step to take.”
Student leaders like Lesley said the change would be a welcome addition to campus life.
“Students want to vote,” Lesley said. “They want to be engaged, they want to be involved and this is the way to make sure that happens.”
The bill has had a hearing in the House and is on its way to the Senate.