National Voter Registration Day is held on the fourth Tuesday of September and every year, the same question is posed: “How do I register to vote?” Citizens of the nation’s capital even find themselves unaware of how to vote and why they should participate in today’s controversial political climate.
Howard University student and California resident, Chioma Bush, acknowledges the importance of voting but remains frustrated with her inability to figure out how to vote in D.C. during her time at Howard.
“I feel like our ancestors put in so much work for us to even have this opportunity, so I feel like it would almost be disrespectful in a way not to register and not to participate, no matter what my views in politics are. I feel like I do it just because I have the ability to,” Bush explained. She also said there are more ways that her university’s administration can implement voter registration awareness on campus.
“We’re all away from home; like we turned 18 and then just left. I think more can be done but I have seen some efforts but I still feel like a majority of the students aren’t aware.”
For busy college students, forgetting to register in time is easy. Fatou Drammeah, freshman journalism major from Prince George’s County, Maryland, says that she is not registered to vote and does not plan to get registered, because she is not sure about when her deadline is.
“For the sheer fact that I wasn’t sure about the date. This wasn’t something that was on my short list of things to do,” she said. According to Dreammeah, more notice and more time to register would propel her to vote.
Kyrstian Green, a junior television/film major from Dallas, Texas, believes that voting is important, but is not registered to vote. She plans to register before her deadline.
“I think it’s important especially, being a Black person that we do exercise our right to vote,” she said. “Younger Black people, we get so caught up in school, and other things going on, so it’s more of a convenience type of thing.”
Bisola Ariyo, a sophomore nursing major, is not registered since she’s an international student from Ghana. Although she is not a U.S. citizen, she still wants people to register to vote. “It’s important to know your leaders and know the people that are affecting your community,” she said.
Ariyo says that if she was able to vote, she would, because not enough people care about who is their government officials. “I feel like people just don’t care, or that they feel like it helps them.”
Many older residents of the D.C. area are more knowledgeable about voter registration day and the upcoming elections due to their longevity in the community, but the way elections were paraded in the past differs greatly from the way they are presented now.
William Hemsley, Howard University employee and resident of Northeast D.C., explained that his awareness surrounding politics and voting is mainly due to the way campaigns were previously handled.
“I think they have to do it in the way that they used to do it in the past. Go door to door,” he said.
“When Marion Barry was alive, he used to have a forum at the end of my block and even though he was in Southeast, he came over to Northeast and he would go over issues. It’s not terribly hard to get people to come out and vote. You just gotta get out and kinda energize them.”
African-Americans have made up a large percentage of residents living within the D.C. area, so it’s expected for them to make sure that their voices are heard, however, that’s not always the case.
Blacks make up 49% of residents in the District, but only 34.8% made up the number of voters in the past. Less clear is whether their absence in voting stems from not being politically aware or losing faith in their vote. Howard University professor Candace Shannon Lewis says there are ways to combat that.
“People can make certain points but from my perspective, your vote is your right and responsibility. I don’t know where things are going in the future, but if you don’t know how to vote, it’s very difficult to make the decision to vote at the last minute. If I’m going to be a citizen and make a difference in the first place, the first thing I can do is be a registered voter.”