Student Senate ups efforts encouraging students to vote on Nov. 8
November 2, 2016
With Election Day coming up on Nov. 8, Student Senate is aiming to make sure students at UW-River Falls are ready and able to vote.
The UWRF campus is split in half when it comes to voting districts, which presents a unique challenge. Many of the students who live on campus can vote in the University Center. However, students living in the Johnson, May, Stratton and Prucha residence halls must vote at the River Falls High School.
According to Student Senate President Chris Morgan, the goal of Senate’s efforts is to make sure that the number of students who are unprepared to vote on Election Day is limited. Morgan said that he has heard stories of students going to one polling place, being told they’re in the wrong place and being too discouraged to go to the correct one.
“It looks like this will be one of the most engaging elections that we’ll see in recent history, so a lot of students are ready to go, ready to vote,” Morgan said. “It’s just a lot of students will come to vote in the University Center and get turned away because that’s not their assigned polling location.”
Morgan said that it’s important for students to have this information well before Election Day, which is why raising awareness is one of Senate’s main goals.
The first effort was Democracy Day, an awareness event held by Student Senate and Student Involvement, on Oct. 25 in the Involvement Center within the University Center. Walking tacos, a mock vote, music and games were featured. Morgan said that the event was meant to engage and inform students in order to make sure they’re prepared on Election Day.
Also featured was the chance for students to sign up for TurboVote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan service aimed toward alerting people of upcoming elections and giving them the information they might need. This includes where to vote, when the polls are open and whether people will need a Voter ID. Morgan said that TurboVote tracks every election in the country, from the local school board to the presidential.
“Any election you are eligible to vote in, you will be notified via text when that election is, where you should vote, what time the polls are open and places where you can find nonpartisan information about what’s on the ballot,” Morgan said.
Another effort currently in the works is a student-wide email. Morgan said that he is working with the Chancellor’s Office to reach every student by sending them an email informing them of everything they’ll need to know when they head to the polls. This will include what is needed to register, where to find proof of residency on eSIS and a reminder that students can still register to vote on the day of the election. Morgan said that making students aware of the preparatory measures they should be taking is vital to student voter turnout.
“There are a few barriers that we do want to get out to the students and have them note ahead of time,” Morgan said.
Some students will also need to present a Voter ID at the polling place, which can be obtained for free from the Division of Technology Services and takes around five minutes to make. According to the UWRF Knowledge Base website, the carding office will be open late on Nov. 7 and 8, remaining open until 8 p.m. instead of closing at 4:30 p.m.
On Election Day itself, 12-15 student leaders from groups on campus, including the Residence Hall Association, are volunteering their time to drive students to the high school to vote. This means that if a student goes to the University Center to vote and is turned away, he or she will be able to go outside and get in a university-owned fleet vehicle for a ride. Morgan said that they will also be parked outside of the residence halls on the west side of campus.
Morgan, who is also volunteering to drive, said that it is important for students to exercise their civic duty by voting because elections will decide their future.
“A lot of students are asking, ‘Why are my class sizes getting bigger? Why is my professor getting fired? Why is the custodian who I made friends with my freshman year getting pink slipped and fired from the university?’” Morgan said. “That’s happening because of decisions being made in Madison, and if you care about your future, you should vote for it.”
In November of 2012, the year of the last presidential election, traditional college-age students had the lowest voter turnout of any age demographic. Nationally, just over 41 percent of people aged 18-24 reported voting in 2012, compared to 73 percent of people aged 65-74, according to the United States Census Bureau. For Wisconsin as a whole, numbers were more optimistic with just under 72 percent of people turning out.
But according to Morgan, a student’s efforts should extend past Nov. 8. He said that state senators and other representatives will be making decisions that impact the lives of students both currently and in the future.
“At an institution of higher learning, at a liberal arts college whose goal is to develop us to become engaged citizens in the 21st century, I think it does start by making us engaged in our democratic efforts in our communities,” Morgan said.
Wisconsin polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8.