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Marietta College sees good rates of voter registration

Photo by Michele Newbanks Marietta College student Jenna Walters votes Friday afternoon at the Washington County Board of Elections.

Marietta College students will be exercising their right to vote in November, but most will not be voting locally.

Maribeth Saleem-Tanner, director of civic engagement, said this year, students have wanted to register to vote using their home address.

“They can register wherever they want. They can register at home with their permanent address or register locally,” she said. “We explain their options, but we saw a bigger percentage of students decide to absentee vote.”

She said the students felt they understood the absentee process and there was an uncertainty with in-person voting.

“We tend to have pretty good registration rates in general,” Saleem-Tanner said. “We do this on mid-term years, too. We have ongoing encouragement for people to vote.”

Through a National Study of Learning Voting and Engagement, the college found they had between 72 and 82 percent of eligible voters who were registered to vote. Saleem-Tanner said there is a big percentage of students who actually vote.

“I think we do a good job encouraging students to engage and participate,” she said. “We try to genuinely be bipartisan.”

She said her office just wants students to be good critical thinkers and use their voices.

“Our office does nonpartisan voter support efforts,” she said. Among other efforts, her office did optional workshops to help those that needed help registering or filling out forms.

“We are offering for those who are registered locally, rides to the polls,” she said.

Even students who were already registered took the time to get more information about the election.

“We’re encouraged by the number of questions,” Saleem-Tanner said. “It shows to me they care.”

One of the students who is taking time to help with the election is 18-year-old Jenna Walters, who was recently named the president of Turning Point USA at Marietta College.

She said Turning Point was an organization designed to get young adults and teens educated on politics.

They set up speaking engagements on college campuses across the U.S. and students can ask questions and give their opinions on matters.

“They are trying to educate so people know who they are voting for,” Walters said.

She said it seems the interest in this election has been more prevalent than in previous elections. Social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have helped get the word out to younger voters about the importance of voting, she said.

Turning Point has also used social media as an education tool, Walters said.

“They do videos and podcasts and are constantly sending out information,” she said.

She said the organization has covered the debates and a lot of the students have been commenting and resharing the videos, regardless of which political party they are affiliated with.

Walters said it was very important for people to stay engaged and be active in their communities.

A lot of younger people are interested in getting the chance to have a say in their futures, she said.

“Voting will benefit them in the long run,” Walters said.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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