Approx. 400 register to vote

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September 21, 2007

4:07 AM

__Students register to vote in Williamsburg in record numbers, registration drive continues__

The demographics of the Williamsburg voter population are shifting rapidly, as 234 registrants were added in just 13 days, raising the number of registered voters from 6,192 Sept. 4 to 6,426 Sept. 17. The overwhelming majority of the new voters, according to Registrar Winifred Sowder, are students.

p. Sowder estimates that in the first month of school, 400 students from the College registered to vote in Williamsburg — enough to have closed the gap between David Sievers ’07, who ran last year for Williamsburg City Council as a student, and the highest vote-getter in that election, Mayor Jeanne Zeidler. The two highest vote-getters won spots on the council, and Sievers would have needed 155 more votes to win a spot.

p. Student Assembly Senate Chair Matt Beato ’09 confirmed Wednesday that he may seek a position on the council, but that he will not decide until January. “It’s something I’ve thought about, but I would only consider it — and I mean this — if it’s the only way to achieve our strategic objectives,” he said. “This isn’t about any one student.”

p. Those objectives include relaxing noise ordinances, attracting College-oriented businesses to locations near campus and changing the Williamsburg law that allows no more than three unrelated people to live in a house together. “It’s not about abolishing [the three-person rule], but about finding a fair and creative solution that doesn’t prohibit four students from living in a six-person house,” SA President Zach Pilchen ’09 said Wednesday.
Pilchen also said he hopes to change the time of City Council meetings from 2 p.m. to a time when both students and daytime workers can attend.

p. “Only retirees can go,” Beato said. “And that has a direct influence on policies.”

p. By increasing the number of College voters, Beato and Pilchen believe students will become a political force in the city and that local candidates will have to appeal to students to get elected.
Pilchen, Beato and other SA members organized the voter registration drives that have been enticing hundreds of students to register to vote in Williamsburg since the start of the semester. They use an online form that requires students to answer 20 questions.

p. The form, which was programmed online by Beato, solves a problem that had been inhibiting potential student voters: They don’t know their on-campus addresses.

p. “What is the address of, you know, Yates 105?” Pilchen said. “It turns out they all have physical addresses. The program allows you to select a dormitory, and it looks up the physical address.”

p. Computers connected to the website, https://sa.wm.edu/voteinwilliamsburg, have been set up at special events like freshman orientation and football tailgates on the Sunken Garden. They will be available outside the University Center dining hall during lunch and dinner next week.

p. Pilchen said that more than half of the students registering to vote were not previously registered in any location.

p. For years, the majority of students had been denied the right to register to vote in Williamsbrug. Former Registrar Dave Andrews typically rejected student applicants because he did not consider them domiciled in Williamsburg. In late April, Andrews was fired for unknown reasons.

p. Sowder, his replacement, evaluates student applications differently and typically approves them.

p. “I’m not going to treat [students] any differently than I treat anybody else,” she said. “I think you’re adults, and you know what you’re doing here.”

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