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Register to vote in Massachusetts elections

How many MIT students are aware of the fact that they have the right to vote in Massachusetts? Just a few days ago, I needed to obtain the signatures of 15 people in the MIT community registered to vote in this commonwealth. The job certainly sounds easy enough; however, it required a considerable amount of time and effort to get those signatures. During the two hours (yes, two hours) that I spent questioning people on their voting status, I began to wonder exactly how many students were aware of Massachusetts voting policy as it pertained to them.

The most common response I met during the signature hunt was "I'm already registered in my home state." I should have taken a poll to find out how many of these people actually used their vote back home; I have a feeling that it is a very low percentage. Absentee ballots are great, and if you're keeping up with politics back home and feel strongly about voting there, fine.

However, keep in mind the fact that you do reside here for nine months out of the year -- three times as long as you stay at "home" -- and registering in Massachusetts is a relatively simple task. All that is required is for you to go to a registration center and fill out a short form. Notification is sent back to the place where you last registered, and that's it.

Two words of caution on this -- first of all, be aware of the fact that you may not vote twice; when you register to vote in Massachusetts, you lose your vote in your home state (until you decide to change your status via the same process mentioned above). Second, if you are the recipient of a state loan, please check on the required residence status for continued funding. It is possible that you may risk losing some types of support since you are technically changing your place of residence when you re-register.

Now, why vote? A classic question, but I'm not going to give the usual response of "one vote does make a difference." True as it may be, I think that most MIT students can intuitively grasp the concept of small contributions combining to take a large effect. Instead, I'd rather bring up some of the concrete issues which voters face in the upcoming Nov. 6 elections.

One of the most heated debates concerns Question 3 -- the Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) ballot initiative. It is a proposal to roll back all state taxes and fees in Massachusetts to earlier levels. The proposal would roll back the personal income tax rate from the current 5.75 percent to 4.25 percent for 1991, then up to 4.625 percent for 1992, and finally to 5 percent from 1993 on. If passed, it would strip $6.369 billion from the state budget over the next three years. In the 1991 fiscal year, $1.17 billion (8.7 percent of the total budget) would be cut; however, the legislation would take effect in January -- half way through the fiscal year. Half of the $13.4 billion budget will have been spent, and $3 billion of the remaining $6.7 billion is non-discretionary -- uncuttable funds for pensions, MBTA, group insurance, and the like. Translation? Almost 40 percent of funds used for education, human services, environmental cleanup, and public safety will be cut.

Since MIT is a privately-funded institution, its students are not directly affected by state educational cuts (unless you are a legal resident of Massachusetts receiving state aid). However, although MIT is a microcosm, it is not an insular one. As students, we have to live with Massachusetts legislation just as much as permanent residents do. If taxes and fees are lowered, we notice the effects directly in our paychecks. If budget cuts caused by rollbacks force the state to lay off workers and reduce spending, we can see the resulting decline in the speed and quality of public maintenance and services. And if state funding for AIDS, environmental cleanup, drug abuse prevention, and other human services is lowered, special interest groups will find themselves in fundraising competitions with each other if they desire to raise money for their respective causes.

The plan to construct the Central Artery is another election issue in addition to, but not separate from, financial concerns. The project's aim is to alleviate congested traffic in the Southeast Expressway area by building an underground system of tunnels for travel. It will also create over 15,000 new jobs -- quite a few of which are for engineers, not an uncommon occupation of MIT graduates. However, while it is being built, what effect will it have on traffic patterns and public transportation? Environmentally, we need to be concerned as to how to channel out and properly filter the exhaust fumes which will collect in the tunnels. Do you currently know which candidate's plan you agree with?

Besides knowing how and why you should register, it might also be helpful to know where and when. There is a voter registration booth today in Lobby 7 from 11 am to 2 pm. If you can't make it then (or if you're reading this too late), you can also register at City Hall, weekdays 9 am to 9 pm and Saturdays 9 am to 5 pm up until Oct. 9. Regardless of how you vote on the issues, please register or at least find out more information. Since Massachusetts is at a major economic turning point, the right to vote will be especially powerful during this election -- use it!


Stacy E. McGeever '93 is general secretary of the Undergraduate Association.