College Republicans, Democrats encourage student voting

Courtesy Photo / Getty Images

Courtesy Photo / Getty Images

Sarah Hillenbrand

With the elections coming up in November, the Grand Valley State University College Republicans and College Democrats are figuring out how to plan events in accordance with the new interpretation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.

The latest interpretation of the MCFA puts new restraints on what the clubs can do during the elections.

“As an organization, clubs cannot use university resources to oppose or support a ballot initiative or candidate,” said Aaron Haight, assistant director of Student Life.

In previous years, the campus clubs could promote or oppose a candidate, but this year, with the review of MCFA, the College Republicans and Democrats must remain neutral.

“(The ruling) changed it so that public bodies can’t make contributions or endorse people,” said Kyle McMillen, president of the College Democrats.

Both clubs have been talking with the university and other officials to clarify what the law says about what the clubs are allowed to do.

“We can’t campaign for a candidate,” said Eric Bassett, president of College Republicans. “We’ve been talking with the secretary of state to find out what the law really says.”

While both have to change some things they do as a club, the groups are focusing more on educating students rather than campaigning for a candidate.

The College Democrats are focusing on getting more students registered to vote in the upcoming elections. They plan on hosting more voter registration drives and having more candidates come in to say what they stand for.

“It changed some things that we do, because we can’t have speakers come in and campaign for themselves or volunteer on campaigns as a group, but we can educate them on how much goes into planning a campaign and how they are involved with the issues,” McMillen said. “It’s not really affecting a whole lot of what we do.”

The College Republicans are also planning to host similar activities, including educating students about how to get an absentee ballot and hosting watch parties, which the College Democrats also do.

“Previously, it was easy just to say, ‘Here’s the Republican candidate and why we like him or her,’ but now we need to find the best way to operate to be within legal reason,” Bassett said.

Along with educating students, Bassett said they are trying to get more people to join the club. “We’ve been trying to recruit members to help our cause and to know more about the Republican Party,” he said.

However, both clubs are mainly focused on getting students voting and educated on the issues.

“We want people to at least get registered to vote regardless of who you vote for,” McMillen said. “A lot of people don’t vote, and you might not think it makes a difference, but it does.”

Bassett agreed. “We’re encouraging everyone to research the issues and candidates,” Bassett said. “Vote this November and be educated.”

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