- October 26th, 2022
- in Crossroads
by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs
Encouraging UA students, faculty and staff to cast their ballots on Nov. 8, UA Vote Everywhere and the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center collaborated with campus partners located in the Student Center to host Roll the Vote, a multi-day voter registration and absentee ballot information drive held Sept. 26–29.
“UA actually has a very high registration rate, but we have below average turnout rates,” said Sam Robson, president of UA Vote Everywhere. “We think that students are just really busy around election time, and we think that students have other priorities, and that the campus needs to be doing more to create a culture around civic engagement ... so it’s really about getting information out there early and trying to convince students that it’s actually worth it.”
During Roll the Vote, UA Vote Everywhere and the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center partnered with the Intercultural Diversity Center (IDC), Student Government Association (SGA), Black Student Union (BSU), and Blackburn Institute, with each organization serving as a host site on a different day.
“BSU was honored to be able to collaborate in the event,” said Anthony Williams, president of BSU. “Voting is a civil right many historical Black figures fought for students such as us to get. It was imperative that we took this opportunity to give students easy access to register and exercise their right to vote.”
“This program provided an opportunity for the IDC to assist our diverse and minority students with a time and space to come in and learn about how to vote and the process,” added Shemaiah Kenon, assistant director of IDC. “Voting is more important than ever nowadays, and I’m happy the IDC could be a part of the charge to inform students that registering to vote is easy, convenient and a pivotal right of our democracy.”
Emma Kenny, a member of the Blackburn Institute and a Vote Everywhere ambassador, said she thought the reason the Blackburn Institute was eager to participate in Roll the Vote was that it was committed to developing ethical leaders and politically active citizens. “Encouraging all of our students to vote and create a voting plan helps the institute and its students get closer to those goals,” Kenny said.
Volunteers set up tables outside each organization’s office, welcoming students with coffee, doughnuts and handouts for voter registration and absentee ballot information.
Frances Buntain, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, stopped by the site in front of the SGA office. She said setting up tables helps to catch students “who aren’t aware that they can vote or should vote or how to register.”
Shelby Johnson and Nila Segobin, students who attended other Roll the Vote sites in the Student Center, said the multi-site setup made voter registration more accessible.
“I definitely do think that [they] are doing a really great job by just going around some different office spaces and making sure [they’re] targeting people who would really like to register, but not sure how to go about the process,” said Johnson.
Segobin added: “I think [this setup] is more effective, and I like how it’s in an office or in different places, so you can ask those questions … because, obviously, being an out-of-state student or even sometimes being an in-state student, you don’t know what to do.”
Over the summer months, student interns with UA Vote Everywhere worked with Crossroads and the Division of Community Affairs to launch a new website: vote.ua.edu. The site is intended to be a one-stop shop of voting resources for participating in local, state-wide, national, and UA’s SGA elections.
Collier Dobbs, SGA’s vice president for External Affairs, said the decision to co-partner on the initiative was in keeping with “our mission statement [which] is ‘to train ourselves in democratic government and promote citizenship on campus’ … so SGA was excited to have the opportunity to co-sponsor not only on the Roll the Vote event, but also to co-sponsor on the past, present, and future efforts to give students the resources to register to vote.”
For voter information and registration, visit vote.ua.edu