Although 2021 is not an election year, the importance of this free practice is still recognized in the Grand Valley State University community and beyond.
Sept. 28 marks National Voter Registration Day, a testament to democracy in the United States.
Even though many Americans see voting as a civic responsibility, it is estimated that one in four eligible people are still not registered to vote, according to the National Voter Registration Day website. This massive discrepancy between citizens and voters is due to a lack of proper registration availability and education. People are often not informed of convenient opportunities in which they can register or believe their vote will not make any impact in major elections.
The new civic holiday, National Voter Registration Day, seeks to change this ideology. With the help of social media platforms, volunteer efforts, and the support of various communities, participating institutions around the country register hundreds of thousands of people to vote yearly. Since its beginning in 2012, approximately 4.5 million people have been registered on this day alone.
For the GVSU Community Service Learning Center (CSLC), this holiday hits close to home. The organization places an emphasis on being engaged in the community, exercising democratic rights to their fullest extent, and learning how to be an active citizen.
“The CSLC values mutual respect, reciprocity, asset-based thinking, inclusion, social justice, and intersectionality,” said CSLC staff member Abigail Caswell. “Our goal is to help students build connections to the community with these values in mind, while also building relationships that positively impact students.”
The CSLC is bringing National Voter Registration Day to life on campus, participating in the national effort to assist citizens in getting registered. From 11 am-4 pm on Sept. 28, a CSLC member, along with the Ottawa County Clerk and representatives from the Michigan Secretary of State, will be available in Kirkhof Center to talk to students about the voting process and how they can register themselves to vote for the next election.
Despite the fact that no major elections are occurring this year, it should not deter students from taking advantage of this opportunity, Caswell said.
“While it typically gets attention during election years, getting registered is something an individual can do at any time,” Caswell said. “Getting registered during a non-election year allows for more flexibility and fewer crowds at registration areas.”
If students are unable to attend the event in person, online voter registration options are available.
The CLSC’s dedication to democracy does not end when National Voter Registration Day does. Their class, Democracy 101: A Series of Critical Conversations, aims to familiarize students with practices such as activism, the history of social movements, their role in civic development, and much more.
“The first session, happening on Sept. 29, is about why voter participation is important in a democracy, with an emphasis on student voter participation,” said Caswell “I see it as an opportunity to learn things that I can consider the next time I vote.”
The voting session will be one of three occurring over the course of this semester. The second is on affordable housing, scheduled for Oct 27, and the third is on immigration in West Michigan, scheduled for Dec. 1. All will be hosted in the Mary Idema Pew Library Multi-purpose room.