Student groups get an early start on voting registration for 2020

In a push for increased civic engagement and voter participation on campus, VCD, VCR and VandyVotes are creating plans to help students register

%28Photo+credit+Claire+Barnett%29
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Student groups get an early start on voting registration for 2020

(Photo credit Claire Barnett)

(Photo credit Claire Barnett)

(Photo credit Claire Barnett)

(Photo credit Claire Barnett)

Adin McGurk

With the 2020 presidential election just over a year away, VandyVotes, Vanderbilt College Democrats (VCD) and Vanderbilt College Republicans (VCR) are taking steps to helping register students to vote and increase civic engagement. VCD and VCR will work together to host voter registration tables at Rand and Commons during their bipartisanship week in early Nov., while VandyVotes expects to lead large-scale voter registration events later in the year. 

Tennessee lags the country in voter turnout at 48th in the nation, with only 50.1 percent of eligible Tennesseans voting in the 2016 presidential election. Increasing voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election is a goal of both VCD and VCR, according to VCR Vice President Danny Harris.

“A lot of people think they don’t need to vote, because ‘Tennessee will always be red,’” Harris said. “If everyone took that mentality when voting, there would be very bad consequences for our country. Nothing is more important than voting from your conscience.”

VandyVotes’ goal is for the overall percentage of students who vote in 2020 will be higher than it was in 2016, said head of VandyVotes and senior Gracie Rule. VandyVotes is an Office of Active Citizenship and Service (OACS) committee comprised of students and staff who are interested in increasing voter turnout and civic engagement on campus. 

Vanderbilt’s student voting rate in the 2016 presidential election was 50.8 percent, which is 2.5 percentage points above the national average among college students, according to a 2017 Tufts study. However, the turnout is still lower than ideal, according to Rule. 

In particular, the group plans on hosting voter registration events and voting information sessions for first-year students. These registration events have yet to be fully planned, but will likely take place towards the end of the fall or the beginning of next spring, Rule said. 

“Right now our main objective goals are voter turnout and registration which can be anything from having voter registration information put into all of the first year information packets to other big voter registration events” Rule said. 

President of VCD Will Newell explained the pair’s early efforts to reach students by pointing out that there will be fewer candidates in the race later on, and therefore less room for Democratic students to make their own judgements. The collaboration is exciting, according to Harris.

“VCR is really excited to host our voter registration drive with VCD,” VCR Vice President Danny Harris said. “In a time like now in the United States, it’s so important that people are educated about who they’re voting for.”

VCD, in partnership with organizations on campus including NPHC sorority Delta Sigma Theta, has been hosting events to clarify the platforms of the many Democratic candidates still in the race in order to make students more inclined to vote in the presidential election. 

Well before elections, campus events to help inform students will be accompanied by voter registration and absentee ballot registration campaigns through tabling at Rand or Commons.  Students who approach VCD/VCR voter registration tables can request an absentee ballot or get registered to vote on the spot, according to Newell.

 

Eva Durchholz contributed reporting for this story.

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