Local groups aim to register voters before deadline
On a the final day to register to vote in the state of Michigan Tuesday, various organizations filled campus in a push to reach students voters and get as many registered as possible.
The University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats and the University’s chapter of College Republicans have been orchestrating voter registration efforts throughout the semester.
College Democrats began registration efforts in fall 2015 with a table on the Diag every Tuesday and one in Mason Hall every Monday. This Tuesday, the effort remained the same with students registering people on the Diag.
According to LSA junior Collin Kelly, chair of College Democrats, the group has registered several thousand voters since their efforts began; however, they will not know the final tally until later this week.
Kelly wrote in an email interview the group has also been coordinating with the Michigan for Hillary campaign, which has been on campus registering voters every day, and Students for Hillary. Kelly noted while the three groups share the goal of electing Clinton to the office of the president, College Democrats also works to elect Democrats down the ballot as well.
Kelly wrote in an email interview the organization’s goal is to register as many students as they can.
“We don't have a specific target number, but the overall goal is to register literally every student on campus, however impossible that may be,” he wrote. “Registering to vote is the first and easiest step to become politically engaged, and U of M has always been a very political and active campus. So if we can try and channel that energy through voter registration, we are hopefully able to organize students further around progressive activism and Democratic politics.”
Similarly, Lauren Gallagher, LSA senior and Student for Hillary President, said their goal is to ensure all students have the chance to make their voice heard come November.
“We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to vote on election day,” she said.
College Republicans has also been working to register voters throughout the semester, both on their own and in coordination with non-partisan organizations like Voice Your Vote. The group did not have a booth on Tuesday, but College Republicans President and LSA junior Enrique Zalamea said they maintained support for efforts to ensure all students are registered to vote.
Students who registered Tuesday said they did so for various reasons from a simple change in address to the hope of having their vote impact the election more by voting in Michigan rather than their home state.
LSA sophomore David Schuberth said he switched his registration from Arizona to his Ann Arbor address because he believes Michigan is more of a swing state.
“I’m registering here because this is basically a swing state, and I know it’s really important to vote in a state where you are more heard,” he said. “Arizona is a Republican state where they are likely to vote for Donald Trump … I thought if I voted here, it would have more impact.”
LSA sophomore Julia Szydlowski said she is registering to vote in her hometown nearby, where she will drive back one Election Day. She said she is registering now after her father continuously reminded her to do so.
“I’m registering to vote because my dad keeps sending me pictures of the voting registration, like the last day saying ‘you need to do this,’ ” she said.
Outside organizations also took part in the final efforts for voter registration. The Michigan Secretary of State Office had a mobile office on campus where students could register or conduct other state business like driver’s license renewal. The mobile office allowed first-time voters to fill the requirements of registering or voting in person.
Kristi Dougan, voter outreach coordinator for the SOS, said they have been traveling to universities across the state since September to reach student voters. This initiative has occurred every other year since 2004 and is expanding to reach as many institutions in the state as they can. The organization’s goal was to register at least 2,000 people, which Dougan said they would likely reach by the end of the day.
“This is just a very good way to provide the service of voter registration to students whether they are registering to vote here in Ann Arbor or back home,” she said.
The Michigan Democratic Party also had several hundred volunteers around Ann Arbor registering people to vote over the past few days.
David Weisman, a volunteer through the party, said he works to register students because he thinks they will help elect Clinton.
“My belief is that students will vote more Democratically than Republican,” he said. “And my goal is to elect Hillary Clinton.”
Devin Kinney, a School of Natural Resources and the Environment graduate student, said she is glad to see a difference from her time as an undergraduate at a different institution toward more student political involvement.
“At my undergrad we didn’t do a lot of this, so it’s really refreshing to see political activity on college campuses,” she said.
In a statement to the student body, University President Mark Schlissel encouraged students to register to vote, saying he believes electoral participation is fundamental to the University.
“I urge everyone in the University of Michigan community to get registered and vote if you are eligible,” he wrote. “I view participation in the electoral process as one of our most important responsibilities. U-M was itself founded under the principles of democracy nearly 200 years ago, established as a university that would serve society and be governed by the people.”
Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president of government relations, echoed this sentiment in an interview earlier in the month.
“I think it is exceedingly important to encourage students to participate,” she said. “You have to carry the enthusiasm and at least the excitement that comes from attending a rally all the way to Election Day.”