In 2018—among other election years—Mansfield’s Town Council struggled to keep pace with the demand from UConn’s aspiring student voters. Election-day registration (EDR) has posed arguably the most significant issues for the city’s current voting system and registrar staff; in fact, Mansfield saw a record 845 EDR voters for Connecticut’s 2018 gubernatorial race. Mansfield Community Center also garnered a 90 percent uptick in midterm election votes cast (from 1,798 votes up to 3,421 votes, to be exact) from 2014 to 2018. Such a strengthening of our democracy should only be encouraged; for this reason, we must identify the current obstructions to our voting system and devise ways to eradicate them.
Various developments impede voter registration for UConn students and Mansfield registrar staff alike. Although Mansfield’s Registrar of Voters hired 14 Election Day poll workers—10 more than the Secretary of State’s office recommended —demand nevertheless proved more overwhelming than anticipated. Technological difficulties also interfered with UConn students’ ability to register online, as registrar staff had to supply paper forms to—and collect them all from—those waiting in line prior to the 8 p.m. registration deadline. Mansfield council member Ben Shaiken has even suggested that UConn students’ constant address changes—and consequent need to refile their respective voter registration forms—have led to a citywide rise in EDR.
Each of these predicaments illustrates that we must act urgently to facilitate voter registration for UConn students and Mansfield registrar staff. As Daily Campus news editor Marlese Lessing notes, “current proposals include including registration cards with new student packets from the university, having UConn supply proof of address cards to on-campus students seeking to vote, bettering the town’s available technology and infrastructure, reaching out to student organizations to push voters to register beforehand and hiring more staff.” Student organizations have proven particularly helpful in advancing an early voting initiative, with UConnPIRG’s New Voters Project (NVP) providing students with physical and online voter registration forms well before their submission deadlines and its key members lobbying for statewide legislation (e.g. the early voting bill that recently garnered approval from Connecticut’s General Administration and Elections Committee). Open discussions surrounding our ability to increase democratic participation (like the one taking place on April 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Student Union) also should spread awareness and inspire proactive voter registration.
Of course, enacting all of the aforementioned proposals university wide and even citywide may take a considerable amount of time and effort. But given the choice to either maintain our substandard voter registration policies or seek to improve upon them, we must cast our votes for the latter option and continue to make promising strides toward a fully active democracy.