Luther students will make effort to vote
Thursday, October 18, 2012 8:50 AM
It's truly wonderful living in a town where the local college turns out such bright and capable young people.
The local news is full of stories of exceptional students, forging ahead to make a difference in the world, following in the footsteps of the Norse movers and shakers who came before.
The list of noteworthy grads is long and diverse, to say the least: Ingebrekt Grose (1885), the first president of Concordia College; Cheryl Brown ('72), the first African-American woman contestant in the Miss America Pageant; Dr. Michael Osterholm ('75), professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota (and the guy I want in my corner when and if a pandemic ever arrives); Jim Nussle ('83), former U.S. Congressman from Iowa; Clarence Norman Brunsdale, the 24th governor of North Dakota; and, perhaps a lesser-known, but arguably equally important contributor to society: Mark Johnson-Williams ('76), co-creator of the Tickle Me Elmo doll, loved and adored by children throughout the world. The list goes on and on.
Whatever their background, whatever their field of study, these Luther College alumni, at some point during their lives, decided to go the distance. Step out of the box. Take control. Be creative. Change the world.
Their legacy lives on today, with the number of innovative students, who continue to set the bar higher as they strive for educational, artistic, athletic and environmental excellence. These are smart young people, and we should treat them as such, in every situation, and at all times.
That's why I was seriously shocked and instantly taken aback when I started following the dialogue surrounding the absentee voting station debacle.
Is this really necessary?
In visiting with Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines, I found he was more than happy to accommodate the request from the Luther Student Senate organization, which had organized a petition and obtained the requisite 100 signatures needed in order for Luther to get one absentee voting station.
He contacted Luther, and Dahl Centennial Union was established as the absentee voting spot for students at Luther. (It bears noting that for students to get their mail, eat a prepared meal or buy books, they daily make the short trek across campus to the Union. If you consider the size of many state colleges, it's an easy journey from anywhere on campus.)
Again, when the second and third voting station requests came to him from Organizing for America, a national organization associated with the Democratic National Party and the Obama Campaign, Steines contacted Luther to request additional locations at the CFA and Brandt. This time his request was denied, as the powers that be at Luther obviously had the sense to agree that one voting station on campus was plenty for students.
Kudos to Luther for putting a stop to needless spending.
While I'm guessing the Democratic National Party and the Obama Campaign had excellent intentions, I'll bet you tickets to Juletide they were thinking of a larger college campus, where students may have difficulty traversing across an expansive campus to get to the polls.
I want to say thanks to Luther College for saving Winneshiek County taxpayers the estimated $1,000 to $1,200 it would have cost to staff, advertise, transport and set up the equipment and print additional ballots for the two extra stations. At a place getting high marks for sustainability, it seems congruent with their mission to not duplicate (or in this case triplicate) the same efforts.
To those of you who feel like Luther and our county auditor are trying to discourage voter participation, I say that's ridiculous.
The fact is, absentee voting in Winneshiek County started almost three weeks ago, and students can stop at the courthouse at their leisure, Monday through Friday, to vote. In addition, the polling location on Nov. 6 is Good Shepherd Church, just a hop, skip and jump from the campus itself.
Anyone who says limiting the absentee stations to one is trying to discourage voters, is just out of touch with how integrated most Luther students have become with the Decorah community.
Anyone who has ever driven down College Drive on a warm summer evening can see the proof students are willing to walk some distance to grab a Subway sandwich, wet their whistle at Roscoe's (or other establishments along Water St.) or stop in for a cool treat at the Whippy Dip. How often do you go to Oneota Coop, Fareway, Maurices or even Walmart (clearly too far to walk from campus), without seeing some coeds out shopping?
They work in town, they shop in town.
They serve as liaisons to community boards and commissions. They participate fully in all that is Decorah, and I have a hard time believing that having absentee voting stations on campus has anything to do with whether or not they take the time to vote.
These are smart, educated, involved community citizens. Let's treat them as such.