oyer, Ehlers, Millender-McDonald Send Letter Encouraging College Students to Participate in Elections

For Immediate Release:

September 29, 2006

Contact:Stacey Farnen Bernards
(202) 225 - 3130

WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, joined by the Chairman and Ranking Democratic Member of the Committee on House Administration, today appealed to representatives of the nation's 4,140 colleges, universities, and community colleges to urge students to become non-partisan Election Day volunteers on November 7.

 Mr. Hoyer released the following statement and the text of the letter.

 "I am pleased to join Rep. Vernon Ehlers, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, and Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, the Committee's ranking Democrat, in a nonpartisan effort to energize this country's college-age young people and the schools they attend to step up and do something good for American democracy on November 7.

 "Thanks to comprehensive reforms on the federal, state, and local levels since 2000, much has been accomplished to improve our election system.  One problem that persists, however, is a shortage of citizens who are willing and able to volunteer in the tens of thousands of polling places that serve voters.

 "A solution to this shortage is available right now in the nation's 4,000 colleges, community colleges, and universities enrolling over 14 million undergraduates.  College-age students represent an ideal pool of young, energetic talent to complement the existing army of volunteer poll workers.  Their familiarity with computer technology and ability to work long hours can go a long way toward reversing the shrinking pool of volunteers and ensuring our democratic system works well on Election Day.

 "Just as important, getting young people to serve as poll workers can help address what many regard as a looming crisis in America's civic spirit and voter participation.  When young people see first hand the connection between voting and their government, they will place a greater value on the importance of voting for the rest of their lives.

 "For this to happen, however, we need college and university leaders to step up and commit their schools to helping overworked and understaffed election officials in their communities.   Through such incentives as giving extra credit and granting an absence from class for students who prove they served as poll workers, institutions of higher learning can make a critical contribution to our nation's democracy.

 "The letter we have sent today to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, American Association of Community Colleges, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Association of American Universities, and National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, encourages their member institutions to urge students to become non-partisan Election Day volunteers on November 7.   We believe these organizations can make a big contribution to our democracy."

Full text of the letter from Reps. Hoyer, Ehlers and Millender-McDonald:

 On Tuesday, November 7, Americans will go to the polls in what many nonpartisan political analysts predict will be the most consequential non-presidential election in 12 years.  The domestic and foreign policies of the United States will fundamentally be affected by this fall's election, particularly if control of either house of the U.S. Congress changes.

 As leaders in the effort to reform our national election system and ensure that every vote that Americans cast is counted, we are deeply concerned by the dearth of young people volunteering to serve as non-partisan poll workers on Election Day.  Historically the administration of this nation's 210,000 polling places has depended on the hard work and dedication of our nation's seniors.

 Make no mistake about it.  These seniors are the pride of our democracy, and a true testament that the civic spirit still burns brightly in the United States.  Unfortunately, elections in the United States have become increasingly complex in recent years, particularly with the advent of electronic voting machines and new federal standards for how elections must be administered.   This increasing complexity, on top of the long day that volunteer poll workers endure on Election Day, has imposed extraordinary new burdens on the men and women who greet us when we enter a polling place, verify our registration, and explain how the voting process works.

 Something needs to be done.

 We strongly believe an easy solution is available right on the campuses of the colleges and universities that the American Association of State Colleges and Universities represents.  College-age students represent an ideal pool of young, energetic talent to complement the existing army of volunteer poll workers. Their familiarity with computer technology and ability to work long hours can go a long way toward reversing the shrinking pool of volunteers and ensuring our democratic system works to perfection on the day that matters most:  Election Day.

 To that end, we strongly encourage your member institutions to urge students to become non-partisan Election Day volunteers on November 7.  Through such incentives as giving extra credit and granting an absence from class for students who prove they served as poll workers, your member institutions can make a critical contribution to our nation's democracy.

 Resources to help your schools get engaged now are easier to find than you may think.  In 2002, President Bush signed the Help America Vote Act.  This landmark legislation established the U.S. Election Assistant Commission as well as the Help America Vote College Program.  To find out how easy it is to get your students involved on Election Day and ignite their civic spirit, just call the Election Assistant Commission at (202) 566-3100.  The Commission's website is www.eac.gov.

 Your schools are educating the future of our nation.  By encouraging your students to join the world's largest one-day volunteer group, dedicated to fulfilling the very promise of our democracy, you can make a difference in the towns and cities in which your schools are located, and your nation as a whole.  

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