Students organize voter registration drives

National Voter Registration Day events held on Grounds in preparation for state and local elections

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Efforts to support ranked choice voting has allowed College Republicans and University Democrats to work together to accomplish the same goal.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

Various student organizations held voter registration drives Sept. 26 in honor of National Voter Registration Day and to encourage students to vote in the November elections for Virginia gubernatorial and local offices.

The College Republicans canvassed students to fill out voter registration forms outside the Fresh Food Company in Newcomb Hall.  Adam Kimelman, a third-year College student and College Republicans chairman,  said about 20 students registered to vote. 

Several students lined up at a table at the Whispering Wall outside of Newcomb Hall with volunteers from University Democrats, Planned Parenthood and NextGen America, an environmental advocacy nonprofit. Volunteers handed out voter registration forms, free food, buttons and other merchandise. 

Students also had the option to sign cards expressing solidarity with Planned Parenthood, pledging to vote in November and explaining their reasons for voting for a national survey studying millennial voting. 

Although the event was in part to advocate for Planned Parenthood, Sophie Punke, a third-year College student and Planned Parenthood Generation Action president, said the main goal of the event was non-partisan voter registration. 

Many of the individuals involved in the voter registration event emphasized the importance of college students going out to the polls and making sure their voices are heard. 

“The people who we are electing now are making the decisions in politics that are going to affect us,” Bradley Katcher, second-year College student and College Republicans vice chairman of campaigns, said. “It is really important just to get out and express your opinion, because voting is how you do it.”

“I think people tend to think that voting doesn’t matter a whole lot, but when it gets down to local elections, city councilors win their elections by 100 or 200 votes,” said Ellen Yates, a first-year College student and University Democrats volunteer.

When asked about their hopes for the November elections, students cited a variety of issues.

“I don’t want Planned Parenthood to be taken away [and] I don’t want the rights of minority groups to be unnoticed,” first-year College student Alexis Allen said. “Especially with everything that happened on U.Va. Grounds, I want someone who will impact that for the better.” 

First-year College student Miranda Arias said the environment and policies concerning pipelines were her primary concerns.

“Last election [I had] friends who didn’t vote but were upset with [the] outcome,” Arias said. “[It’s] important to contribute because it’s things that impact you every single day.”

Kimelman said he is hoping to see economic and tax reform from the next governor.

“In terms of what we would actually like to see the next governor do, no matter who he is, we would like to see tax reform get done and start revamping our economy,” Kimelman said. 

Virginia Chambers, second-year College student and University Democrats communications coordinator, listed ways the election directly impacts the student body. The governor appoints members to the the University’s Board of Visitors, which Chambers said are often political appointments. She said this will affect University policies like tuition affordability.

Chambers also pointed to the election’s potential national significance. Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states holding gubernatorial elections this November. 

“Virginia is the first competitive race following Donald Trump’s election and this could really be a bellwether for how the midterms are going to go next year,” she said. 

Some students registering last Tuesday were already registered in their hometowns, but re-registered to vote in Charlottesville. 

Second-year College student Ken Stevens said he registered to vote in Charlottesville because he didn’t want to vote absentee. 

“It’s easier for me to go down the street and vote here instead of mailing an absentee ballot to Richmond,” Stevens said.

Punke said that she registered in Charlottesville because she lives in Virginia most of the year and Virginia politics will directly affect her. 

Chambers said students may not be aware that every time a student changes their address, they need to re-register to vote, even if moving from student dormitories to an apartment. 

“It’s easy to say no to someone who says, ‘Do you want to register to vote,’” Allen said. “But if you say ‘Hey we got free dumplings, we have buttons, we have brownies,’ it makes people want to sign up and register.”

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