The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

U.Va. Center for Politics, Hillel at U.Va., Serv and UBE work to boost voter engagement on Grounds

Nonprofits and CIOs offer education and rides to polling locations among other resources

<p>A candidate voting guide is in the works through a joint effort between the Center for Politics and Students for Equity and Reform in Virginia.</p>

A candidate voting guide is in the works through a joint effort between the Center for Politics and Students for Equity and Reform in Virginia.

As the Virginia general election election draws closer, University organizations are working to bring students to the polls, through registration efforts or more creative efforts — like offering students rides to polling locations on golf carts. Key issues for this election include abortion rights, climate change and the role of parents in education, among others.  

Carah Ong Whaley, academics program officer at the U.Va. Center for Politics, said that the broad engagement of student groups approaching the election allows everyone to see their role in the process.

“It's really wonderful to have different efforts, different ideas, different energy com from different places that can relate to different people and get them informed and engaged,” Whaley said.

The Center held an event at Observatory Hill Dining Hall, allowing students to register themselves, check their registration, or request absentee ballots in exchange for a “Hoos Vote” t-shirt early in September. Over 600 t-shirts were distributed, and they helped an estimated 1,000 students register to vote. 

The Center also worked with the Brody Jewish Center, Hillel at U.Va., to register students at their weekly Bagels on the Lawn. On average, around 130 to 150 students come for free bagels each week.

Nate Welz, Hillel’s external community chair and third-year Batten student , reached out to the Center for help registering and educating students at the Hillel event.

“Voter registration is really important because Virginia has elections every year and our state legislature elections are incredibly important… [especially for] students who care about things like the housing code and affordable rent in the area,” Welz said.

The University Board of Elections also works with the Center — though UBE runs internal student elections at the University, they do assist with the voter engagement efforts of other groups, such as Observatory Hill tabling and Bagels on the Lawn events.

Zach Lederer, vice chair for candidates and third-year College student, said that the University Board of Elections only recently started spreading the word about the general election.

“At the end of the day, we are all about voting,” Lederer said. “It doesn't really matter what level that may be. We want to honor people and get their voices heard on Grounds but also in Virginia and at the federal level as well.”

Lederer said UBE plans to target areas of historically low turnout this year. He said that in the past, the School of Engineering had a lower turnout than the College, and they are considering increasing tabling efforts, particularly along Engineer’s Way.

A candidate voting guide is also in the works through a joint effort between the Center for Politics and Students for Equity and Reform in Virginia, a CIO with the mission of obtaining equitable state legislation.

Kristin O’Donoghue, co-founder and vice president of SERV and fourth-year College student, is leading the charge. SERV received a grant from the National Organization for Women and plans to use the money to fund transport for students on Grounds during Election Day — members of SERV will drive students to Slaughter Recreation Center and Student Council pickup points in a golf cart.  

“[It is] really just designed to be fun, exciting and a way for people to participate as a community and get excited about the process of voting,” O’Donoghue said.

SERV will also distribute goodie bags with items including information about candidates and their stances on various issues, ranging from criminal justice to education. A text line will also be established to provide the community with a way to ask questions about the voting process. SERV intends to give brief presentations during classes about the importance of voting.

O’Donoghue said that the general public is frustrated with the younger generation and concerned about having low voter turnout rates, and she thinks this is justified. She said that unless the younger generation goes to the polls, they cannot expect to have influence on the government’s choices and actions.

Continuing on the matter of voter engagement, Whaley said that many people have fought for the right to vote through social movements historically — it is important that individuals continue to exercise that right and hold their elected officials accountable beyond just showing up at the polls. 

So far, early voting data is showing that numbers are ahead of what they were in prior years, Whaley said. She also said that a broader interest in Virginia elections is evident, with Gov. Glenn Youngkin playing an important role in the elections as well as the Biden administration. 

Youngkin leads the efforts to make Virginia swing entirely red, with a Republican sweep potentially serving as a roadmap for Republican candidates in other states. Conversely, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Hampton University in Virginia earlier this month, where she spoke on issues ranging from abortion rights to climate change. This visit was part of her “Fight For Our Freedoms” college tour, where she will speak at roughly a dozen campuses between September and October.

“We know that a lot of eyes are on Virginia,” Whaley said. “There's folks from across the political spectrum that are trying to encourage political participation, and so hopefully that will translate to overall greater turnout, because competitive elections are actually a good thing for the health of democracies.”

On Election Day itself, the Center for Politics will partner with President Jim Ryan a second time for a “Run with Jim to the Polls.” He will run to different polling locations around the University with students and community members.

Election Day is Nov. 7th, and the deadline to register is Oct. 16th. Early voting began September 22nd and will continue until November 4th. Out-of-state University students can choose whether to vote in the Virginia election or in the senate election of their home state, and all students can register to vote online on the Virginia Department of Elections website.


Latest Podcast

From her love of Taylor Swift to a late-night Yik Yak post, Olivia Beam describes how Swifties at U.Va. was born. In this week's episode, Olivia details the thin line Swifties at U.Va. successfully walk to share their love of Taylor Swift while also fostering an inclusive and welcoming community.