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College Students Seek Greater Representation In D.C.

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Some college students in the District say they deserve a greater say in local politics. They're trying to take advantage of the city's new same-day registration law to get more students elected in districts that represent campuses or dorms.

But this new electoral activism is rankling some old-time activists.

Tom Smith says when he found out an American University freshman was challenging him for his Advisory Neighborhood Commission spot, he didn't need help galvanizing his neighbors in Spring Valley to get out and vote –- the threat of a student deciding zoning issues and other matters took care of voter apathy.

Smith ended up winning by a healthy margin, but he thinks the new election laws are open for abuse.

"When you change your voter registration for one election with the intent...of changing it back immediately thereafter -- as in this case, students were told they could do -- that is gaming the system," he says.

It's estimated that undergraduate students make up more than 10 percent of D.C.'s population.

But until the new election laws were passed making it easier to register to vote, there were few opportunities to flex this political clout.

Georgetown University student Jake Sticka is one of two college students who won an ANC spot in the last election cycle. He's now working with college students on other campuses to push for more representation

"It's a little ironic that in a city like D.C. that so often talks about disenfranchisement...for then so many of those same residents to say to students, 'You don't deserve a vote here, you don't deserve to have representation,' I see that as somewhat hypocritical," Sticka says.

Sticka says he's learned one major lesson from his experience so far: all politics is local.

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