Starting today, students living in residence halls will have
unexpected visitors.

In an effort to increase student voter turnout, the Michigan
Student Assembly and the Residence Halls Association are teaming up
to get students involved in the democratic process.

Voice Your Vote, a standing commission of MSA that works to
raise voter participation, will be sending trained volunteers
door-to-door in the residence halls, registering new voters,
providing information about the candidates and encouraging students
to get out their opinions at the polls.

“Our goal is to get to the folks on campus that might not
take the time to register to vote as they are walking by (voter
registration tables) on the Diag,” said Pete Woiwode, an LSA
senior and co-chair of the Voice Your Vote Commission.

Students have mixed opinions concerning Voice Your Votes
entrance into their rooms.

LSA freshman Sarah Benatar, who lives in West Quad Residence
Hall, said, “It’s a good idea, as long as if you say
‘No’ they don’t keep banging on your
door.”

Sofia Salazar, an LSA freshman who lives in South Quad Residence
Hall, said if no one went around asking students if they were
registered, students would forget to register in the first place.
“(Registering) is a hassle,” she said.

Other students had less favorable opinions of the campaign.

Engineering freshman Shahid Ali, who lives in Mosher-Jordan
Residence Hall, said the campaign sounds annoying. “If I
wanted to (register to vote), I’d go out and do it
myself.” He also said that if they knocked on his door,
“I don’t think I’d open it.”

MSA and RHA have clashed in the past, when students campaigning
for MSA representative seats were kicked out of the residence halls
last year.

RHA and the University Housing Office have a standing policy
that any person running for publicly elected office — be it
president, governor or student offices — may campaign in the
residence halls, provided that they follow carefully outlined
protocol, including carrying proper photo identification, calling
between designated hours and refraining from doors marked “No
Soliticing.”

Last year MSA campaigners were asked to leave when they violated
these procedures, failing to produce photo identification and
bothering students who had posted no soliciting signs.

“If you allow elected officials to campaign in residence
halls, you have to provide a mechanism for students to be able to
vote,” said LSA senior and RHA president Amy Keller.

After last year’s incident, RHA and MSA have worked to
repair their relationship, coming together again to help increase
the student vote.

Last year Voice Your Vote approached the Residence Hall
Association and asked for its support in getting door-to-door
access in the residence halls.

RHA then raised the question with the Housing Office, holding
several meetings to discuss privacy issues and logistics. After
much deliberation, Housing and RHA decided to fully support the
Voice Your Vote initiative.

Voice Your Vote leaders said they are committed to staying
nonpartisan in their efforts to register students.

Woiwode said in each training session, volunteers are explicitly
reminded not to push their own political agenda on students.

For example, volunteers won’t personally provide
information on the candidates, but will instead recommend that
students visit campaign websites.

To further protect students’ privacy, RHA has set up a
website for student complaints on the Voice Your Vote campaign,
whether volunteers are knocking on doors with “No
Soliciting” signs or making rounds after approved hours.
Students with complaints may log on to
www.umich.edu/~rha/complaints.html.

Voice Your Vote, MSA, RHA and University Housing are aiming to
register 15,000 voters by Oct. 4. In the last two weeks, Voice Your
Vote programs have registered 3,000 new voters.

Woiwode hopes that the residence hall campaign will be highly
effective, noting that the majority of first-year students are not
registered to vote.

Voice Your Vote has been campaigning all around campus, even
passing out pro-vote shirts that say “November 2” and
“Hail to the Voters.” Woiwode said, “The way our
campus works, going to websites and seeing T-shirts is going to be
the most interaction we have with the students.”

Students also face the issue of where to vote. While there are
some students that live in the surrounding areas, enabling them to
go home to vote, many students are from cities hours away, even
states away, and have no way to get back to their respective
districts Nov. 2, the day of the election.

Woiwode said that Voice Your Vote’s aim is to get students
registered at any address, be it campus or permanent and that while
Voice Your Vote cannot provide absentee ballots, volunteers will be
equipped with information about how students can register to
receive absentee ballots.

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