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Addressing young voters’ engagement

The following editorial appeared in The Telegraph, Alton, Ill., on Thursday, Feb. 14:

(MCT) — There are places long lines are not welcome: the doctor’s office, the bathroom and the airport, to name a few.

But there are times that heaping helpings of humanity are signs of something good, from a standing-room-only performance to a four-star meal.

Or an election.

Truth is, though, outside of an occasional hot-button race, elections have become quiet at the voting booth — where it makes a difference.

See, the more people partake in the privilege of voting, the better the result becomes for everyone.

Democracy requires interactivity and the more people get involved the closer we can get to true rule of the majority.

So why does turnout routinely fluctuate on Election Day? Partially, it’s a generational thinking about voting — people don’t put as much stock in the process as in, say, the 1960s and 1970s. Anything from apathy to the weather can keep voters away.

That notwithstanding, the registration process — required to be eligible to vote — is a turnoff for younger would-be voters. Theirs is a generation that deals more in faceless technology than in human interaction. They tend to seek more immediate gratification and resolution than it can take to go to the courthouse, fill out information and get verified.

Other states have recognized that to bridge the technology gap is as simple as allowing people to register online to vote. Short of allowing voting online — and that is something that remains years away — this is a way to pique younger voters’ interest in the process.

Gov. Pat Quinn last week estimated online registration could attract 2 million people who could be eligible to vote but have not registered.

“We must move our election process into the 21st century,” Quinn told legislators in his State of the State address.

There are real concerns that must be addressed, key among them the prevention of voter fraud. There must also be close scrutiny of the cost involved — although most of the 15 states making a change have reported savings, some of which have been substantial.

Fortunately, Illinois can learn from other states’ experience and build its own specialized system.

The important thing is the state address the growing disconnect that threatens to chip away at the election process.

©2013 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.)

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