Campus political groups aim to register students to vote as election approaches

Sunday, October 2, 2016 - 6:17pm

LSA freshman Jag Whitten registers to vote in Michigan with his parents, at a voter registration station operated by the College Democrats in the Diag on August 30, 2016.

LSA freshman Jag Whitten registers to vote in Michigan with his parents, at a voter registration station operated by the College Democrats in the Diag on August 30, 2016. Buy this photo
Grant Hardy/ Daily

 

With the Michigan voter registration deadline on Oct. 11 soon approaching, student political groups on campus are making a final push to register students to vote.

In the Michigan Democratic primary, the youth vote was influential, helping push then-contender for the nomination, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), to an upset victory.

Stephen Neuman, the Michigan Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign senior adviser, said he hopes students recognize the sway they could have on the election.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure young voters understand that they hold tremendous power in their hands and absolutely have the wherewithal to shape the future of their country,” Neuman said.

On both sides of the political spectrum, campus political leaders are stressing the importance of getting as many students as possible registered to vote — regardless of whom they vote for — and involved in the political process.

Republican voters are in the minority of students on campus, but LSA junior Enrique Zalamea, president of College Republicans, said it doesn’t deter him and other students with similar political views from working to register student voters. As part of efforts to register voters, he said the College Republicans currently conduct voter registration on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on the Diag or in Mason Hall.

In addition, Zalamea said the College Republicans will be working with the Central Student Government's nonpartisan Voice Your Vote voter registration initiative. Taking place from Sunday, Oct. 1 until Friday, Oct. 7, the drive will target voter registration of students from each residence hall on campus.

“We’re going to be working with a lot of other nonpartisan volunteers, along with College Democrat volunteers to try to get people involved in voting,” Zalamea said.

The Michigan Democratic Coordinated Campaign in Michigan and College Democrats, like the College Republicans, are also aiming to register students of all political affiliations.

Neuman said one of the main ways they are encouraging voter registration at both the University and Michigan State University is through a friendly competition between the campaigns on both campuses of who can register the most voters.

“We are tracking a competition between the University of Michigan and Michigan State with respect to voter registration, who can get more students registered to vote,” Neuman said. “And as of now, Michigan State is slightly ahead.”

Neuman declined to release the exact numbers on the competition, but said as of Sept. 27 Michigan State was ahead.

“I know that the University of Michigan was recently ranked as the number one public university in the country — it would be quite a shame if they couldn’t even come in first in their own state in number of students registered to vote,” Neuman said.

In addition to work being done by the Democratic campaign offices in Ann Arbor, Neuman said it is important for the Democratic campaign to work with campus organizations such as College Democrats and work together toward a common goal.

“We foster close relationships with campus leadership groups and Democratic groups on campus,” Neuman said. “We try to work with existing leadership organizations.”

LSA junior Collin Kelly, president of the College Democrats, said his chapter’s ultimate motivation is to register students to help former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton win the state of Michigan in November.

“It’s clear from past elections that students tend to vote Democrat,” Kelly said. “When students vote, Democrats win — young people tend to lean liberal.”

Voter registration activities sponsored by the College Democrats occur on Mondays and Tuesdays on the Diag and in Mason Hall, according to Kelly. Additionally, the Ann Arbor coordinated Clinton campaign is holding voter registration activities on the Diag daily.

Both Kelly and Zalamea stressed that they want to register students to vote, regardless of affiliation.

“We feel like regardless of who they’re going to vote for, it’s important to vote,” Kelly said.

Zalamea said he believes the right to vote should never be squandered, regardless of affiliation. He also noted that despite some Republicans’ differing views on the party’s presidential nominee Donald Trump, Zalamea said it’s important not only to focus on the presidential race at hand, but also to get voters involved at all levels of government. The College Republicans officially endorsed Trump earlier in September.

“We are also making sure that all of our members, despite their views on Trump, get involved with other Republican campaigns,” Zalamea said. “We’re going to be working very heavily with U.S. Congressman Dave Trott (R–Mich.) and U.S. Congressman Mike Bishop (R–Mich.), they’re both running for reelection, so we’re going to be working with those campaigns.”

LSA senior Brendan Schroder, the voter registration coordinator for the College Democrats, said he got involved in voter registration last year during the primaries because he felt very passionately about the candidates and wanted to enable people to vote.

“Voting becomes a voice for people when it comes to government,” Schroder said. “In every election, especially this one, people need to have their voices heard.”

Those not registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election yet must do so by mail or in-person, not online. To check the specific voter registration guidelines for Michigan, visit the Michigan secretary of state website at http://www.michigan.gov/sos/.

If a student is unsure if they are registered to vote in the state of Michigan, they can also check their registration status on the Michigan state voter website at https://vote.michigan.gov/MVIC/.