I’m writing because I feel that the front page cover of the September 21 issue of The Eagle misrepresents the purposes of the student-led effort to have a student representing American University on ANC 3D. The column identifying the “steps” to vote improperly depicts this campaign as though it were a one-time stunt that students should not take seriously, which is the exact opposite of what the purpose of this campaign is about. Here’s what the column says:
1. Give up your vote for Congress and all hometown elections.
Yes, students who have registered to vote in their hometowns will be giving up this ability if they choose to vote in D.C. But it is worth noting that most AU students spend at least two-thirds of each year in the District, they are counted in the census as residents of the District, and by changing their registration they will be able to help affect the decisions made by the D.C. government. And anyone can change their registration as often as they like, so long as they are only voting at one place at a time.
2. Register to vote in one of the most liberal cities in America.
This has nothing to do with the effort to elect students to ANC 3D. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners are non-partisan offices. This effort is not about whether students are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Tea Party or Coffee Party — it is about having a voice in the local government agency that affects our entire educational experience at AU and in the District of Columbia. Painting the process in this light will dissuade certain students from participating in this effort, which is not the way to help it succeed.
3. Check preferred box.
Students are free to vote for whomever they wish. And not just for ANC 3D, but also for the D.C. Mayor, D.C. Council members, and the D.C. Congressional delegate. While I’m sure the students in the AV4U campaign will be supporting particular students for the positions, no one is being “forced” to vote for any particular person.
4. Ditch your D.C. registration in time for the 2012 presidential election.
Why would students need to “ditch” their registration after this election? For one thing, the 23rd Amendment, enacted in 1961, allows D.C. voters to vote for president, so students who decide to vote in DC in 2012 wouldn’t be missing out on anything they’re not already missing out on this year.
But what is more important is that if the effort to get student representation on ANC 3D is successful this year, it’s going to need to happen again in 2012. And 2014. And 2016, and so on and so forth. This is what denotes the difference between a political stunt and a meaningful effort to gain lasting representation for AU students on the commission.
I hope students will see this effort not as giving up their ability to vote in their hometowns, but as an opportunity to be a part of a grassroots political movement to enfranchise and empower students within local government. This is a worthwhile cause and an achievable cause, but only if students come together to make a difference.
Sophomore, School of Communication