Multicultural Student Center and Student Council hold voter registration event

Event part of voting-related programming at the MSC

IMG_6029

A student registers to vote at the Get Out the Vote event.

Kathryn Jewusiak | Cavalier Daily

The Multicultural Student Center and the Student Council Legislative Affairs Committee co-hosted a Get Out The Vote event Tuesday at the MSC. 

Third-year College student Eileen Chen is a leadership intern in the Multicultural Student Center, and had the idea to host an event for voter registration. 

“I thought we needed to have a voter registration event, so I reached out to Student Council and we put on the event together,” Chen said. “This month in general, we’re promoting minority organizations and minority students to vote, because there tends to be the lowest turnout of minority groups.”

The MSC has prepared a lot of programming for this month, Chen said. Efforts to engage students include advertisements, candidates guides students can take home, information on how to register to vote and polling booths and a “Why We Vote” board in the MSC. 

“We have a ‘Why We Vote board,’ so people just come and put why voting matters, so there’s been some really powerful messages people have written, and there’s also some silly answers,” Chen said. “It’s mainly just to engage people in voting.” 

On the board, students had written a variety of messages, including, “Because we have a duty to be engaged citizens,” “So we can’t complain when someone we don’t like gets elected,” “Because democracy requires participation” and “Because Mami and Papi can’t. #immigrant.” 

These efforts help to sustain student interest and raise awareness in elections during off-years, Chen said. 

Members of the Student Council Legislative Affairs Committee emphasized the importance of engaging students in the election process during off-years, an effort that extends beyond the University but is also a statewide challenge.

“There’s certain challenges with this year’s election because it is an off-year election, and only two states in the whole nation are having [gubernatorial] elections — Virginia and New Jersey,” said Isaac Weintz, a second-year College student and Legislative Affairs Committee member. “So yes, there is interest because there’s always interest in elections, but this year there’s a particular challenge because of that off-year, and that’s something that not just the University faces but that the state as a whole faces on a regular basis.”

Knowing where to vote can be a challenge for University students, said Madison Roberts, a second-year College student and Legislative Affairs Committee member. With various precincts in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, it can be confusing to know which one to vote in, as some student housing areas are in the city and some are in the county. 

“It’s not really apathy among student voters — it’s more that it's just really complicated in Charlottesville to get registered properly,” Roberts said. “People put a lot of pressure on millennials, and they say millennials aren’t voting, but in actuality it’s very difficult to do so, especially in Charlottesville.”

Fourth-year College student Elizabeth Parker is chair of the Student Council Legislative Affairs committee. The majority of students who come to voter registration events come to change their address, she said. 

“You have to change your address every year you move at U.Va., so most people have to update their voter registration every single year,” Parker said. “That affects about 75 percent of the student body, basically.”

Students should also be aware that the governor elected in November selects members of the Board of Visitors and submits this decision to the General Assembly, Parker said.

“That’s the message we’re trying to drive home right now, to make that connection — that if you want to have control over what happens at U.Va. you have to vote in this election,” Parker said. 

Chen also cited the desire to encourage students to vote who are not already involved in the legislative process. After the presidential election last November, the MSC gave students a space to come and talk, Chen said.

“I think this space is already utilized by organizations and leaders who are really involved in these kinds of issues, so that’s been great to see,” Chen said. “Also what we’re really trying to do with events like this is to attract people who don’t normally come to the center, who aren’t super involved in social issues already, and just give them the space to hang out.”

Students filtered through the MSC and filled out voter registration forms between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. The Minority Rights Coalition will host another Get Out the Vote event Friday, Oct. 13 at Observatory Hill Dining Hall.

related stories