Voter Registration Drives encourage civic engagement

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Voter Registration Drives encourage civic engagement

GVL \ Meghan Landgren

GVL \ Meghan Landgren

GVL \ Meghan Landgren

GVL \ Meghan Landgren

Autumn Babas, Staff Reporter

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The Community Service Learning Center is actively giving students at Grand Valley State University a chance to let their voices be heard and shed light on important political topics. Through their Campus Elections Engagement Project, they will be holding Voter Registration Drives every Wednesday for the rest of the semester. These drives encourage students to get out and make the change they want to see in the world around them.  

This year’s Voter Registration Drives are held with the assistance of Sam Jacobs, Student Senator and Campus Democracy Fellow. They will be taking place 12-2 p.m. on GVSU’s Pew Campus in Devos Center C, at the table near Erberts and Gerberts. 

“We have done a lot of work in Allendale over the past couple years to make sure students have access to register to vote,” said Melissa Baker-Boosamra, Associate Director of Student Life of Civic Engagement. “We haven’t had the capacity to really dive into downtown, so Sam has made it his project for this month and semester to focus on voter registration efforts downtown.”

The Community Service Learning Center as well as the Campus Elections Engagement Project put emphasis on the importance of students not just going out and voting, but using the resources necessary to be informed voters before they make their decision. 

“Registering to vote is a great first step in becoming an active part of the voting process,” said Jane Johnston, Civic Engagement Associate and Campus Vote Project Democracy Fellow. “Students should also be taking the time to research candidates, go to town hall forums or email their representatives.”

Any student can register to vote, even if they miss the Voter Registration Drives. All they need to do is go to the Community Service Learning Center at Room 1110 in the Kirkhof Center. CSLC will provide students with all the necessary materials such as stamps and envelopes, as well as help them find where they need to mail it to. 

“If there is an organization or individual that wants to get people registered we can provide the training, the materials, the space, the promotion and anything they need to do it,” Baker-Boosamra said. 

The Community Service Learning Center encourages students and the campus community to take ownership of getting out and getting people registered. This is why Jacobs and the Campus Elections Engagement Project stepped up and took the initiative in getting GVSU actively involved in our democracy. 

“Voter Registration Drives are only part of what we do at the Community Service Learning Center,” Johnston said. “We’re really focused on helping students critically think about democracy and be actively involved in the process.”

Civic engagement is immensely important for college students. Each and every individual can have an impact. Students need to be properly informed about the political world, so they can take part in decisions affecting them in the future.

“This is the world that all of you students are going to be inheriting and moving into as adults,” Baker-Boosamra said. “There are lots of reasons to be informed, it’s important to take ownership of the world we live in. We want to create a space for students to both learn and think about their role in the public and civic life of our communities.”

Voter turnout rates have rapidly increased. There has been a significant increase in student voter turnout rates since 2014. The Community Service Learning Center is working hard to continue this and produce an even higher turnout for 2020. In 2014, there were 3,467 students who voted and in 2018 that almost doubled, with 8,326 students voting. 

“The 18 to 24 voting rate increased on average by a little over 30 percent and that is the average across the country,” Baker-Boosamra said. “That’s a lot. What this tells us is that students are paying attention.”

The Community Service Learning Center has seen these positive trends and acknowledges how there is much more room for students to have an impact, an opportunity they try to provide their Community Engagement Programs. They also have the Campus Democratic Engagement Coalition, a group of students, faculty and staff who come together and work to develop the Campus Democratic Engagement Plan, which carves out specific goals and objectives around voter registration, voter education, voter turnout and civility at GVSU.

“Your vote is your voice,” Baker-Boosamra said. “If you don’t vote, you are not exercising the most fundamental right that we are really honored to have.” 

Being a part of a democracy includes working together with your neighbors to solve problems, getting involved, and staying informed about local issues and politics. More GVSU students are taking initiative by voting and building bright futures for themselves and generations to come.