Campus initiatives encourage students to register to vote, make their voices heard

Election season is in full swing but the time available to register to vote is limited. With the registration deadline coming up on Sunday, now’s the time for students to confirm their ability to vote.

“We’ve been sending people out with clip boards around the Quad to get students registered to vote,” said Sara Maeglin, senior in LAS. 

Maeglin is the co-president of the RSO Advocates for Choice, an organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood that has embraced the task of raising election awareness on campus. In the past few Wednesday’s, their organization has gotten over 200 students registered to vote.

“We get involved in getting students to register to vote because we think it’s important for their voices to be heard and we want them to care about the issues,” said Andrew Dolinar, junior in LAS and co-president of Advocates for Choice. 

A journalism class called I-Elect, taught by Eric Meyer and Nancy Benson, is also raising awareness for voter registration. The class is offered only occasionally during a major election year and is dedicated to covering the upcoming election. 

“Our goal has been to focus on how we can cover the election to make college students interested,” says Rachel Musnicki, senior in Media and social media coordinator of I-Elect. “Our project is to put a spin on the election that students will find interesting in new and innovative ways.” 

Maeglin, Dolinar and Musnicki all value the importance of exercising one’s right to vote.

“Voting is a civic engagement; when we register to vote and participate in the election, we are performing our civic duty,” Dolinar said.

All three individuals said that voting is not only a right that should be exercised, but an opportunity for students to stand behind a cause and a way to have their voices heard.

“A lot of people think that their vote doesn’t count, but I’d just want them to know that their vote does count, even if it’s in the smallest way,” Maeglin said. “Just to say you’ve voted and made a difference, especially if your candidate was elected, shows that you stood behind something, and I think that is really important.”

Virginia Murray, Illini Media employee, senior in LAS and a new member of Advocates for Choice, said that a cause is only as strong as its weakest member, so it is important that people exercise their voting right in order to support issues they believe in. 

Both groups have taken on initiatives to make sure students are going beyond just a civic duty to vote, and actually educating themselves on the candidates.

As social networking coordinator for I-Elect, Musnicki’s job is to look up relevant links pertaining to the election and to get information out to the student body.

“I look up policy stories, go on the Champaign county clerks website, look at the Colbert Report and the Daily Show, I’m just looking for things that I think students our age need to be aware of,” Musnicki said.

She adds that there are plenty of other ways to start learning about politics and the issues for this upcoming election, like following Twitter accounts that tweet about the election and by watching newscasts, the debates and reading newspapers.

Both groups added that students may not understand the voting process.

“I don’t think a lot of people know that you have to re-register to vote whenever you move,” Dolinar said. “If students are registered to vote back home, they have to fill out and send in an absentee ballot. But if students who are registered elsewhere want to vote here in person, they have to register again here.”

In order to register to vote people just need basic knowledge about themselves, their social security number and their driver’s license number. They can do so in the Union, UGL or through any individual who is certified to register people to vote, including some students. 

With the easy accessibility to register and a year when issues and policies have gotten people passionate and worked up, Maeglin thinks voting is more essential now than ever.

“I think it’s such a close election and it’s been reported on and discussed so heavily, being registered to vote is just a part of the process in getting out there and helping make a difference,” she said.

At the registration table in the Union, Titus Fong, freshman in DGS, just filled out and turned in his registration form. 

Fong embodies someone with the right mindset needed when registering to vote. A first-time voter, Fong said, “I registered because I feel like by voting I can change something.”

Saher can be reached at features@dailyillini.com.