Photos by Jillian Atelsek
Only 66 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the presidential election of 2012, according to electionproject.org. Two on-campus groups at the University of Maryland are working hard to bring those numbers up.
MaryPIRG, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, and LCSL, the center for Leadership and Community Service-Learning, teamed up last week to put on a special event for students. Held at Stamp Student Union, the event was advertised as “Root Beer Floats and Get Ready to Vote!”
The event had two goals: to serve root beer floats and to get as many students as possible prepared with all of the necessary information for Nov. 8. In addition to registering new voters, the staff members at the event helped students check whether they were registered and update their registration address to reflect their residence for the new school year.
Colorful posters and pamphlets covered the room, reading things like “Register to Vote!” and “Vote 2016: It’s Our Turn.”
Sophomore sociology major Amanda Stavisky bounced excitedly around the room as 1 p.m. rolled around and the event got underway. She is the coordinator of the campus New Voters Project, and was a key player in pulling the afternoon together.
“If we, as college students, don’t register to vote,” Stavisky said, “we’re not even taking the most basic steps to show that we care about our country.”
Ali Barlow is the coordinator for LCSL and was another member of the team who planned the registration drive. She said that the groups’ goal for the semester as a whole is to register 2,000 students to vote, and that this event was part of that “blitz.”
“There are so many important issues facing our country that are directly relevant to college students,” Barlow said when asked why she believed this event would be relevant and important to the university community. She then added that “the incentive of root beer floats never hurts.”
Students drifted in and out of the event throughout the afternoon. Nicole Grap, a senior hearing and speech sciences major, was one of the first students to come in and fill out a registration form. She was updating her registration to reflect her current address.
To Grap personally, the most important issues in the upcoming election are education and foreign policy. “I think there is a rise in [college students] figuring out how important it really is to vote,” she said.
Barlow disagreed, saying that this particular election season is discouraging to young, optimistic voters. She remembered the 2008 election fondly, saying that campus was filled with hope and positive energy rather than the negativity that has so dominated the news cycles lately.
“I think that more students are feeling a little bit lost,” Barlow said.
Both Barlow and Stavisky were passionate about the idea that no matter a student’s political views, the most important thing is that they exercise their civic duty and vote on Nov. 8.
“There’s an entire ballot,” Stavisky reminded students unenthused with the presidential race. She encouraged them to do their research on the congressional and local candidates in order to make an intelligent, informed vote.
Online voter registration in the state of Maryland is open until Tuesday, Oct. 18.