Column: Early voting would expand voting rights for students

As a columnist I feel an obligation to not only opine about the latest debates, but also educate my readers on the many happenings in Jefferson City and Washington.

Last week there has emerged a plethora of issues as the deadline to file bills has passed. Lots of bills were filed at the last minute raising concerns as to what may lie ahead for the state General Assembly in the next two-and-a-half months. One bill heard in a House committee was a measure that would allow early voting in the state.

Early voting will be great for expanding the franchise to college students, who are notorious for ignoring Election Day. This is also one step closer to Election Day Registration, which will help college students who are voting for the first time and are not familiar with the registration and absentee voting process by ending the disenfranchisement that occurs every election year when students miss deadlines.

A federal bill that has been filed this year will also make registering to vote easier. The Student Voter Opportunity to Encourage Registration Act, a bill supported by a bipartisan effort in Congress, would establish a kind of "motor voter" registration, so a student can register to vote when they register for classes. Since students can change addresses as often as every semester, this will be very helpful for keeping registrations current.

Right now, most students at MU should still be registered since there was a great effort to register young people during the last election.

The Young Democrats specifically targeted apartment complexes in the Sixth Ward of Columbia in their registration efforts. This is important not only because an increased student vote helped elect Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, but also because there is now an election for City Council in that ward, which includes East Campus, the Bearfield area, Campus View and some residence halls in the south part of campus, such as the Dobbs group, South and Center.

After attending a debate between the incumbent, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe and Rod Robinson last week, I want to take a moment to endorse Hoppe. She has led Columbia on a path toward sustainability through economic development and has a great vision for the city. Hoppe wants to continue to slow urban sprawl through smart growth management like investing in downtown infrastructure. She wants to use some of the stimulus money to expand the bus system to make it relevant for more Columbians. Hoppe also wants to use some of the stimulus money to build the farmer's market pavilion. She has great plans for Columbia and it seemed like Robinson lacked any new ideas in his platform. She should be re-elected. The election is April 7.

One final thought: This weekend, I'm going to be at the annual Democrat Days in Hannibal where every major Democrat in the state will be speaking. I'll be tweeting the goings-on at www.twitter.com/nateckennedy. Follow me!

Nate Kennedy is the chairman of the Young Democrats of Missouri College Federation. He can be reached at nkennedy@themaneater.com.

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