A four letter word and a simple action, yet one with a lot of power behind it. 

But in America, it is an action that is often neglected. In 2016, only 55.7% of eligible people turned out to vote, a number bested by 26 other developed democratic countries. It wasn’t just the 2016 election though — voter turnout for Americans has been around 50-60% for the last few presidential elections and much less for the off-year congressional midterms. 

This year, there seems to be a change of tides as a dangerous virus spreads effortlessly, an uprising against racial injustice and political tensions continue to divide the country. 

A lot of people right now feel helpless because there are a lot of bad things in the news,” Michigan volleyball sophomore middle blocker Jess Robinson said. “Life is pretty insane right now, but one thing we can change in this world is our government — the people representing us — and the way to do that is voting.”

This renewed energy to participate in the oldest institution of political participation has become an exciting opportunity to Robinson and her teammates. As of this week, the entire team — barring international players — have registered and plan to vote in the November election. 

“When we found out it was 100%, we were just so happy. We were so proud,” Robinson said. “The people who weren’t registered to vote were freshmen. We helped them through it. That was sort of a fun thing to do with them on getting their absentee ballots mailed to their new homes in Ann Arbor. So that was a big milestone for them and it was a big victory for the team.”

Robinson is one of several Michigan student-athletes leading initiatives to help register the rest of their teammates. Defensive linemen Kwity Paye and Carlo Kemp helped register the football team by organizing tables where players could sign up after practice. Men’s basketball senior forward Isaiah Livers helped get the rest of the men’s basketball team registered. 

“We just wanted to do our part,” Paye told The Daily last month. “Make sure that we’re voting. Just because the stuff thats going on right now, it’s just ridiculous.”

These valiant mobilization efforts made by these student-athletes reflect a larger movement boiling beneath the surface — one among the youth. 

“We’re the people who are going to inherit this world,” Robinson said, “so we should make it the best one we can, because right now it’s not looking too good. We’re the ones who have to stay (here) the longest, so I think that young people should try and get into (everything).” 

With volleyball unlikely being played in the fall, voter registration has become a team-building activity for the Wolverines. Robinson and her teammates were excited to register and get involved. They even treated it as a way to help integrate the freshmen into the team. 

“We only get this chance once every four years,” Robinson said. “This is my first time voting because I just turned 18 in the last year, so it was a pretty big deal for me and is for a lot of people on this team. We’re all just really excited to exercise our right because we just feel like a lot of things have to change and this is the best way to do it.”

As the election date looms, people everywhere are joining mobilization efforts and getting themselves prepared to vote. On Michigan’s campus, athletes’ voices ring loudly. They recognize the special attention their platform brings them, and they’re making the most of this responsibility. 

“We get out to thousands of more people than what a normal student would,” women’s basketball sophomore forward Naz Hillmon told The Daily at a student-athlete led protest in August. “I really think that we are taking advantage of our platform, just trying to get information out there and just trying to put our thoughts out there. … Just trying to put out positive information and correct information.”

Robinson and the other many student-athletes want their initiative to be seen to help motivate others. They understand the power and influence their actions and voice can have. For voting, they are excited to reveal their accomplishment and hope it inspires others to do the same.

“(Voting is) just really important to everyone,” Robinson said. “No matter what your opinion (is), it’s that your opinion is being heard and that you (are) at least registered, voting, … casting your ballot and … being a part of the democratic (process).” 

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