The student organization led initiative to get fellow Broncos out to the polls this November took its biggest step forward this afternoon, with the WMU Rock the Vote event registering hundreds of voters for the upcoming elections.
Volunteers from Graduate Student Advisory Committee and the Western Student Association staffed tables at both the main campus flagpoles and in the yard outside of the Bernhard Center, flagging down students on their way to class and helping sign up to vote. Staff at both venues of the event estimated that, as of 4 p.m., they had gotten registration forms from nearly 400 people.
“There’s been a lot of craziness today, but in an awesome way,” said Cheyla Milo, president of the WMU Graduate Students of Color, whose organization manned a registration table outside the Bernhard Center. “We’re getting people registered to vote here in Kalamazoo. Most students spend most of their year living here while attending school. They should have a voice here in the local community.”
Rock the Vote is a national bipartisan organization dedicated toward helping to inform and engage the nation’s youth in the decision-making process.
The event is the cornerstone of GSAC’s and WSA’s campaign to get student voters to cast their ballots later this year. The collaboration had a similar push back in 2008, though Milo said this year both organizations are putting more time and resources into their efforts.
Prior to today, the group had only collected 164 registration forms, a number they nearly doubled at a single table by the flagpoles, said Rebecca Sametz, the vice-chair of GSAC.
“A lot of people are shocked at how easy it is to register to vote here in Michigan,” Sametz said.
According to state law, students are allowed to register and vote in the district in which they attend college. One of the main goals of the campaign is to get more out-of-state students to register to vote locally, which has proven to be a challenge in the past, Sametz said.
“It’s a common myth that students who are from out-of-state can’t register to vote in their district without affecting their financial aid,” she said.
Also on hand at the event was a mobile signup bus with the Michigan Secretary of State Office, where students could go to register in their home districts instead signing up to vote locally. Volunteers from the Kalamazoo Area League of Women Voters had their own table outside the Bernhard Center, lending a hand to the student volunteers.
“WMU is doing an excellent job in encouraging students to perform their civic duty, which is to vote,” said Karen Eddy, the head of the organization.
In addition to forms and pens, hotdogs, popcorn and ice water were provided to hungry students who stopped by, while a disc jockey from WMU’s WIDR provided background music while people signed up.
For many students at the event, this year’s Election Day will be the first one they will be able to actively participate in.
“This will be my first time voting. My grandma has been pushing to get out there and vote this year,” said Paige Moses, a 20-year-old junior majoring in psychology. “I actually thought [registering] was going to be a long, boring process, but it was really quite simple.”
While today’s event is the largest the student organizations have planned, both Milo and Sametz said that both GSAC and WSA plan on visiting classrooms over the next couple weeks, reminding students about the upcoming Michigan voter registration deadline on Oct. 9.
“After Oct. 9th, we’ll be pushing people to actually go out and vote in November,” Milo said. “It’s not enough to just register.”