UTD organizations mobilize student voters for election

Photo by Patrick Le | Mercury Staff.

Correction: In a previous version of this story, Akshitha Padigela’s name was misspelled. The Mercury regrets this error.

With the presidential election rapidly approaching student organizations, university faculty and staff are mobilizing as many people as they can to go vote.

As a part of the effort, Residential Life held a Comets Rock the Vote voting drive on Sept. 21 in Residence Hall West.

“Voting is a way for citizens to have their voices heard. There are major topics being discussed in this election cycle that will affect students,” said Sarah Amberson, the Residential Life assistant director of community development.

A DJ blaring music, a food truck with sliders and a number of giveaways made the event more than just a voter registration drive.

“We also want to get residents excited, interested and educated about this upcoming election. If students don’t feel educated enough about issues or candidates or excited they may not turn out to vote,” Amberson said.

Akshitha Padigela, the president of Student Government, said SG shares a similar goal in organizing a separate Rock the Vote event on Oct. 11, 12 and 13 in the Galaxy Rooms.

“It’s going to be a lot of not just telling people to vote, but making sure that they are informed voters, not just, ‘Hey we are registering you to vote, go vote.’ We want to make sure they know who they’re voting for, what their options are, as well as know what kind of ways that they can vote,” Padigela said.

SG’s entire legislative committee is deputized to register voters in Collin County as of Sept. 20.

Annelise Heinz, an assistant professor of history, is deputized as a volunteer registrar in Dallas County. As a faculty member, she said she has a special role as a deputy.

“I think that faculty serve, in part, as community resources. Texas lags behind almost every other state in voter turnout. There is still a lot of confusion about the Voter ID laws, and not everyone knows that voters need to register 30 days before polling,” Heinz said.

Despite the complexity, Heinz maintains the importance of voting.

“In our society, the vote is the emblem of having a political voice. So many women and men have suffered and died to gain this right. We cannot take it lightly,” she said.

Heinz stressed the value in young people voting in the election.

“(College students’) voter turnout is reaching distressing record lows. However, college students are engaged in learning, are being exposed to different points of view, are practicing evidence-based thinking — what valuable perspectives to add to elections. I also make it clear (to my classes) that I think everyone should educate themselves and participate, regardless of political persuasion,” Heinz said.

Nancy Fairbank, a political science senior who founded UTD’s No Labels chapter explained the utility of the organization on campus during the election season. No Labels is a non-profit organization that educates voters and participates in nonpartisan and impartial election mobilization.

“No Labels influences and energizes the people to get involved in politics by showing them that there is still a political space left where politics is about fixing, not fighting,” Fairbank said.

She affirmed the educative feature of No Labels at UTD.

“No Labels also informs many people about key bipartisan issues and motivates them to push their elected representatives to engage in a constructive dialogue surrounding these issues,” Fairbank said.

Joanna Haug, a sociology sophomore, is a deputized volunteer registrar involved with No Labels. She said student organizations have a big effect on election mobilization.

“To be honest, I don’t think I would have gotten deputized if (it weren’t for) No Labels. I probably would have been interested, but No Labels is giving me the opportunity to actually do it,” Haug said.

Deputization can be done in a few simple steps.

“We just had to go to (the Collin County Elections) office, fill out a few forms and take a quiz. During the quiz, we had access to a PowerPoint with all the information we needed. Painless process,” Haug said.

Haug said she feels the disappointment young voters have with their choices in the upcoming election, but maintains the importance of mobilizing to get young voters to impact the polls.

“I understand being disillusioned. I’m from Louisiana and a lot of times I feel like my vote really doesn’t matter. But I feel like voting is a civic duty and I want my voice to be heard, no matter how little it actually counts. The only way to combat it is to show young people that their opinions matter and that they can make a difference,” Haug said.

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