By Lynsey Jeffery
For Unwind magazine
All over campus, posters scrawled with “REGISTER TO VOTE” punctuate the fall scenery. Throughout the semester, various groups on campus have taken the initiative to get University of Maryland students engaged in the voting process.
A coalition called TerpsVOTE, headed by the Student Government Association, is working to cross party lines and get students interested in the political process through different events. The events are sponsored by multiple campus groups including College Democrats, College Republicans, Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG), and the Residence Hall Association, among others.
Groups use direct methods like tabling, which includes asking voters if they’re registered and signing them up on the spot, as well as indirect methods from holding debate watch parties and discussions to prize giveaways. As election day approaches, there have been a number of ways to encourage terps to head to the polls in the past few weeks.
“RHA hosted a ‘Floats and Votes’ where they gave root beer floats to those who registered, and many of the politically focused groups on campus came together to host debate watch parties,” junior government and politics major and SGA Representative Georgie Jones explained.
But the role of SGA in spearheading the coalition of campus groups working toward student voter engagement isn’t to run the most events or stand in the spotlight. “We, myself and the other SGA representatives who worked on TerpsVOTE, made it our goal to let the groups lead projects based on what they thought was the best method to get the word out to their communities and we offered our support however we could,” Jones said.
In one of the most polarized elections the country has ever seen, terps from all across the political spectrum are coming together to strengthen the millennial voting bloc. “I think the most important thing is for people to be involved in the political process,” University of Maryland College Republicans Chairman Jacob Veitch said.
Veitch, a junior government and politics and international business major, also stressed the importance of voting based on principle. “If you don’t like the result and you didn’t participate, it doesn’t matter.”
Veitch is not the only person on campus who believes in the power of voting.
“Students feel that their voice doesn’t matter … we need to crush the myth that apathy is the norm among millennials, especially on college campuses,” sophomore sociology major and Coordinator of MaryPIRG’s New Voters Project Amanda Stavisky said.
Government and politics professor Stella Rouse stresses the importance of the millennial vote. Rouse is the advisor of another student club focused on registering millennials, It’s Our Future, and is currently working on a book called “The Politics of Millennials.”
Because millennials are now the largest generation, “it’s really important that they make their voices heard,” Rouse said. “Even in a [solid blue] state like Maryland, it’s still very important to vote.”
It’s Our Future President Stacey Khizder originally started the club to inform people about the candidates during the primaries, but changed its mission based on what she felt was needed on campus: more students helping other students to register to vote.
“As long as they’re registered, that’s the first step to a greater voter turnout,” the junior government and politics and psychology major, said.
This semester, large and visible efforts have been made on campus to get terps registered and to the polls, from root beer floats to keeping a straight face at a registration table when passing students yell profanities at one presidential candidate or another. The many political groups on campus have made registering this university’s students to vote their top priority, and will continue to publicize their beliefs in the importance of political involvement through Election Day.
“The future of this country is really in our hands,” Khizder said. “It’s important that we are shaping who’s coming into office.”