GVSU Votes! hosts on-campus voter registration event


GVL / Macayla Cramer

Jacob Welch, Staff Writer

As fall begins, so too does election season for voters in Michigan and across the country.

As the turn of the weather is followed by a slew of political discussions and what some may find to be a complex path to the voting booth, voting advocates at Grand Valley State University have sought to simplify the process by bringing it to campus.

On Sept. 20, the GVSU Votes! Campus Coalition, organized primarily by the Office of Student Life, marked National Voter Registration Day by providing those at GVSU with an on-campus opportunity to register to vote at the university’s Kirkhof Center in Allendale.

“National Voter Registration here is basically just providing students with resources on how they can vote, where they can vote, what their voting plan might be and how to get them registered,” said graduate student Hannah Beatus. “We also have popcorn, pizza and other snacks to get students involved and engaged and connected together.”

GVSU Votes! was founded to encourage campus participation in the democratic process, promoting a broad group of diverse views to push students to engage.

“It’s a non-partisan organization on campus that just encourages students to get actively engaged in our Grand Valley community and beyond,” Beatus said. “So today, we’re here to help students get registered if they need to be registered. We’re here to also provide resources and help bridge the knowledge gap in case they’re really not sure how to vote or voting resources.”

The coalition behind GVSU Votes! features both students and staff working together to encourage campus voter turnout.

“I actually worked as a clerk and election administrator in 2018 and 2019, so I have a passion for democracy and voting,” said Affiliate Faculty Dan Cope. “When I became a faculty member here, I wanted to find a way to still be involved in civic engagement and fostering engagement with my students.”

Cope said the coalition is a prime opportunity to continue such work.

“I joined GVSU Votes!, which is a non-partisan coalition with students, faculty and stakeholders,” Cope said. “We have three main goals we work for: voter registration, voter turnout and voter education.”

The group isn’t limited to voter registration, but also includes civic courses educating interested citizens in the democratic process.

“We have a series of events called Democracy 101 that happens on Wednesday nights,” Cope said. “Those will be an ongoing series until the end of the semester and they’re just around voter education and civil discourse, like how to dialogue with people across differences.”

Polarization has already become prominent among many Americans, and that leakage onto campus has been an area of focus for both faculty and staff.

“So far, my opinion is that we’re very separated between Democrats and Republicans,” said GVSU freshman Carlitos Valentinserna. “I feel like it creates a divide between the people, instead of coming together and creating good solutions to problems.”

The main point of the registration event and the work of GVSU Votes!, however, is about getting students to participate.

“I want to encourage students, especially, to vote,” Cope said. “Students are often disenfranchised from the voting process because they move around a lot and because they’re young. Their voice is often among groups that just aren’t amplified.”

At GVSU Votes!, Cope does what he can to not only encourage students to vote but to ease the process through on-campus access and education.

“Promoting student engagement with civic engagement, the voting process is very important to us,” Cope said. “I want all the students I teach to know that, to feel empowered and be active participants in their community and feel like they have a say.”

With the ease of the process offered by statewide services as well as coalitions like GVSU Votes!, students like Valentinserna, who received registration verification just two days after online registration, are encouraged to make their voices heard.

“I registered to vote,” Valentinserna said. “I am confident that my vote will help the future of our country.”