By Naomi Overby
Gabby Jasso, a junior social justice and history major, has been registered to vote since she turned 18 and knows that her vote matters.
“I am a child of Mexican immigrants, and most of the people that I love and surround myself with are undocumented, so when I vote, I don’t just vote for myself. I vote for so many people that do not have the opportunity to do so,” said Jasso.
Moving into a presidential election year on campus, it’s never too early to register to vote— but if students are unaware of deadlines for registration and absentee ballots, they can miss the chance to vote on Nov. 3.
As a solution, the communication department, pre-law society, and SGA are partnering to host a week-long voter registration drive on campus, where students from not just Tennessee, but out of state as well, can come and get registered to vote.
The dates are not yet finalized, but tentatively is the end of March through the beginning of April.
“[Voting] is the foundation of our democracy. The idea that everyone has a voice in leadership and the way we are governed is the basis of democracy. It’s exceptionally important that we take that on as a responsibility,” said Jeffrey Wells, associate professor of communication studies.
Voters ages 18 to 29 have had lower turnouts historically than older voters, but in the 2018 midterms, 28.2 percent of young voters participated, more than double the national youth turnout in 2014. College students, in particular, had a 40.3 percent turnout at polls in the 2018 midterms, all according to data analyzed by Tisch College researchers from the Tufts’ Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).
“I think college votes matter because typically the youth don’t vote. I think it’s particularly important in this upcoming election that young people are voting,” said Wells. “There are too many extremely important issues that are going to affect their futures, and the future of their children that are just important for them to be speaking into.”
On a college campus, registering to vote and voting itself may be confusing, especially for students from out of state.
Deadlines and requirements to register and vote vary by each individual state. Students should register in the state they actually hold true residency in, so living on campus here in Tennessee doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the state to vote in.
Absentee ballots allow students who are out of state at college to vote in their home state and are sent by mail. There is a deadline to request and send back absentee ballots that also varies by state. In-person voting needs to happen at each individual’s assigned polling station.
Wells said the event planned for this spring will help students figure out all the requirements.
Jasso said she believes there’s a lack of knowledge when it comes to voting.
“You don’t get that education in high school courses, and then you don’t get it in college,” said Jasso. “Registering to vote is not hard at all… but people just don’t know, and I think a lot of people are ashamed that they don’t know, and so they just don’t vote.”
Wells said that’s the goal of the registration drive he’s helping to plan.
“In some respects, there’s a lack of education, which hopefully we’re combatting with the voter registration drive,” said Wells.
The best thing students can do is research and be informed, said Wells.