A Message from your Student Body President, Erik Michaels-Ober

The general election this November 2 gives students an opportunity to shape the future of American public policy. This nation is nearly evenly divided along party lines: of the 535 representatives in the Congress, 280 are Republicans, 253 are Democrats, and 2 are Independents. The last presidential election was decided in the state of Florida by a mere 537 votes. This number is less than six percent of the number of students on this campus alone. In Pittsburgh, the last mayoral race was decided by 699 votes, and a couple hundred often decide City Council seats. Such narrow margins give students the power to swing local, state, and national elections.

Since 18- to 21-year-old citizens gained suffrage in 1971, they have had the lowest voter turnout of any age group: only 30 percent in the last presidential election year. By contrast, citizens over the age of 65 vote at more than double that rate. It is no wonder that politicians spend more time talking about prescription medication than about lowering the cost of higher education.

Unfortunately, because politicians do not focus on the issues directly related to students, we are discouraged from participating in the system, creating a cycle of nonparticipation. Politicians have no incentive to break this cycle. Only we can break it.

If students start voting in larger numbers and influencing elections, politicians will no longer be able to ignore our issues. International students can get involved by volunteering for a political campaign, political action committee, or not-for-profit organization.

Students who are registered in another state can either re-register in Pennsylvania, or vote by absentee ballot. The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot varies from state to state, but regardless of your home state, you must do it soon. To find out more about absentee ballots, look for the table set up outside Doherty Hall during the week of October 4.

Our opinions are effective only if they are well-informed. Student Government is working to distribute free local and national newspapers on campus during the weeks leading up to the election so that students can read about candidates and the issues. Student Government has also formed a coalition of campus organizations to coordinate political events on campus. One such event will be a showing of the first presidential debate on the evening of September 30.

Outside of all these events, student volunteers will be doing voter registration. Since the beginning of the semester, these volunteers have already registered 300 new student voters. Our goal is to register at least 200 more before the October 4 deadline. After this date, the coalition of student organizations will remain active through November 2, when we will be working to get out the vote.

On November 2, Rangos Ballroom will be turned into Carnegie Mellon Election Central. While the polls are open, student volunteers will be stationed there, reminding people to vote, providing directions to voting locations, and helping those who have problems voting. After the polls close there will be an election returns party, where students can watch the results on three large screens as they come in. There will also be an exciting lineup of political-themed student performances on the stage.

Student Government is committed to ensuring that, this election year, students? voices will be heard. Together, we have the power to make this country ours.