A new organization on campus, the Student Vote Coalition (SVC), has begun work to assist as many students as possible register to vote, become educated voters and make it to the polls on Election Day.
"Earlier this summer the president, the vice president and myself of the [Student Government Association] realized that we needed to have local, student run, student organized and student managed voter services program because our goal is to enfranchise the student body," said SVC Director Timothy Collins.
The SVC, sponsored by SGA, has three main goals: foster critical thinking and civic engagement, help make life-long voters of those who are involved in the public dialog of self government and turn out 80 percent of the student population on Election Day. For local or primary elections student turn out has been as low 15 percent in the past. Since Sept 1 the SVC has helped about 250 students register to vote.
"Students are exhausted and disenfranchised and that is why they are not voting," said Collins. The SVC plans to change that.
Voter registration drives are already underway on campus. Students will be able to register at a table in the Dreyfus University Center, Monday-Friday from 10am to 2pm, now through September 21. All that is needed to register is a driver’s license or state I.D.
Non-resident students and those with expired I.D.s will need the last four digits of their social security number.
The SVC will also be holding "poll walks" for students who will be unable to make it to the polls on Election Day and need to fill out absentee ballots. Open registration ends on Oct 17 at 5pm. After that deadline voters will need to provide proof of residency. The SVC will have booths set up to assist students with obtaining proof of residency, even covering the cost of printing.
The SVC will be helping to educate voters by holding discussions on policies, issues and the structure of government. It is also working to schedule forums on campus with local balloted candidates, a possible meet-and-greet, question-and-answer-type sessions, and screenings of presidential and vice presidential debates. Those events will begin sometime in mid October.
"This is about having informed voters and making the candidates accountable to the student body and the whole university community," said Collins. "Students are never formally brought into the voting process. Our goal is bring them into the formal process of being involved in self government. The long-term goal is to have this Student Vote Coalition not dissolve on November 7, but to continue as an engine for civic engagement."
Pending funding the SVC will provide three Voter Vans to help transport students to and from the polls on Nov 7. The vans will be traveling to Voting Districts 1, 2, 3 and 11.
Any questions about where to vote, how to register or how to submit an absentee ballot can be directed to Collins. His office is in Room 052 in the DUC and his office number is 715-346-4592. Anyone interested in volunteering or interning with the SVC should also contact Collins. Another contact for voter questions is the Government Accountability Board’s toll free voter hotline: 1-866-VOTE-WIS (1-866-8683-947).