Constitution Day Essay Winner Highlights Automatic Voter Registration

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 1, 2020) – When it came time to submit an entry to the 2020 Constitution Day Essay contest, Jacob Weissenburg knew immediately which topic he would select.

UAlbany sophomore Jacob Weissenburg

UAlbany sophomore Jacob Weissenburg

On Sept. 17, 1787, delegates of the constitutional convention signed the most influential document in American history, the U.S. Constitution. In honor of Constitution Day, UAlbany’s Center for Leadership and Service, along with the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy organized this year’s essay contest, in which it asked faculty and students the following question: What is the most pressing Constitutional issue facing our country today?

A sophomore from Buffalo majoring in public policy, Weissenburg joined Generation Vote – an organization that advocates for voting rights, especially among young people – as a freshman. For Weissenburg, our right to vote is the most powerful tool we are afforded through the Constitution. That’s why he chose to write about automatic voter registration (AVR), and its potential to serve as a tool to expand this right.

“I already knew a lot about this proposition through my involvement with Generation Vote, and I believe that if enacted, it would help democracy by increasing voter turnout,” said Weissenburg, who also has a double minor in sustainability and creative writing.

In his essay, Weissenburg noted that eight states implemented AVR prior to the 2018 midterm elections. The voter turnout among young people increased by 10 percent that year, though at 31 percent was still very low. The 2020 U.S. presidential election was a different story however, with both candidates receiving record-breaking totals, including President-Elect Joe Biden, who crossed 80 million votes before the end of November. This year’s turnout of about 66.5 percent is also the highest among eligible voters since 1900.

Weissenburg was drawn to UAlbany both for its location and its academic offerings. “I have always been interested in politics and government, and knew that Albany would provide me with opportunities to get involved both inside and outside of the classroom,” he said.

Although only in his second year, Weissenburg is already planning for his next career steps, which includes additional studies in New York’s capital city. “As for my future, after I graduate I plan to continue at UAlbany to earn my Master's in Public Administration, and am still working on a plan for after that,” said Weissenburg.

Patrick Barnett, Yehuda Sprei and Jalen Wri were named honorable mention in the essay contest.

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