Student groups lead campaign to register voters on campus
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 22:10
“Educate. Empower. Act.”
This slogan emphasized the theme of last week’s three voter registration events held at the university by the Black Student Union and the Student Government Association. The student groups teamed up to assist students in registering to vote and in filling out absentee ballots.
Junior Chanelle Caple, BSU secretary, says the purpose of the event was to encourage new voters to become more politically active.
“A lot of people don’t think their voices can be heard,” Caple says. “When you turn 18, registering to vote is one of the last things on your list.”
2008 voter turnout data from the United States Census indicates 28,263 citizens between ages 18 and 24 were registered to vote and of those, 12,515 actually voted.
To help promote better voter turnout among new voters, Caple and other students of BSU held the registration events last Tuesday on the Trabant Patio, on Thursday outside the Trabant Multipurpose Rooms and on Monday in the Mitchell Hall lobby.
Freshman Dakota Hanemann-Rawlings came to the event because he wanted to vote in the upcoming election. He says he found the registration process was easier than he had expected.
Dakota says he believes it is important for students to vote because the results of this election will affect their lives post-graduation.
“As college students, we should start to think about these things now,” Hanemann-Rawlings says. “It’s really important for us to get our opinions out.”
The BSU, a politically active organization, hosts one event per month focusing on either a political or current issue. After watching the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention together, BSU members decided to host voter registration events for students.
Caple says the group members feel strongly about encouraging students to be politically active this election season. Students who worked the event wore bright yellow shirts that read, “UDecide,” reiterating the importance of student votes.
Caple says she feels a need to vote because largely debated topics, such as student loans and education, directly affect her. She says students generally lack interest in politics, though they are more motivated now because the results of this election will specifically impact them. Most officials that students elect while in college, for presidential and local offices, will remain in their positions after students have graduated.
For the registration events, Caple researched specific state requirements for registering to vote and requesting absentee ballots. Students working the event manned tables organized by state, since each has its own voter registration guideline. Students answered questions about the registration process, supplied envelopes and filed forms to be mailed.
The SGA assisted with event costs and labor. Sophomore Megan Fitzgerald, the vice president of University Affairs, helped students register to vote. The voter registration application includes basic identity questions including name, home address, birth date and a signature affirming U.S. citizenship.
Though many students visited the registration booths, Fitzgerald says she notices that politics are rarely discussed.
“The election isn’t typical in conversation,” FitzGerald says. “It’s not normally talked about unless I’m in a political setting.”
Michael Eric Dyson, an academic, author and radio host, spoke on Thursday at “Why You Should Vote” in the Trabant MPRs. When Dyson’s speech let out, many attendees went to the voter registration booths set up nearby.
During his speech, Dyson poked fun at both parties and explained the importance of voting to expand democracy. He kept his audience engaged by weaving in and out of heavy academic jargon and jokes about the NFL and popular culture. Dyson says in some countries citizens are denied the right to vote; while in other countries, voting is compulsory.
“The first reason why you should vote is because you can,” Dyson says. “As limited as [democracy] is, it is vital because you are arguing about more than who will occupy the White House.”