Alpha Phi Alpha, NU Votes host voter registration drive

Joseph Diebold

Northwestern’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha hosted a voter registration drive Wednesday, allowing students to register as new voters or sign up to vote absentee in their home states.

The drive was the first time that NU’s chapter of Alpha, a historically black fraternity and a member of National Pan-Hellenic Council, has participated in the national chapter’s voter education and registration initiative, “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People.” The initiative began in the 1930s when many blacks were denied the right to vote.

The drive was held in conjunction with NU Votes, a nonpartisan initiative of the Center for Civic Engagement.

Weinberg senior Adam Thompson-Harvey, Alpha’s president, talked about the importance of civic engagement on college campuses.

“Without a vote, that’s basically your voice in this country, so we want to make sure that every Northwestern student and people in the Evanston community are registered to vote especially with the upcoming election season underway,” Thompson-Harvey said.

Thompson-Harvey said he hoped the drive would produce 100 new voters.

SESP junior Rebecca Portman, a fellow in the Center for Civic Engagement, said NU Votes is working to make voting more accessible for students. Although the registration drive was a one-time event, NU students can register at the Center year-round.

“When you’re in college it’s kind of complicated dealing with voting away from home or voting absentee, so NU Votes simplifies that whole process and makes voting way more accessible,” Portman said.

Portman said translating registered voters into actual voters can be difficult, but she hopes this year will be different.

“There are complications with dealing with the bureaucracy of 50 different states that all have different systems for voting and also just being on a college campus is sort of a bubble,” she said. “But I do think that in a year like 2012 a lot of people will want to vote and will be excited about voting.”

Medill sophomore Valerie King said the convenience of the event was important.

“I turned 18 last year and I’m 19 now and I’ve been dying to register, just haven’t really heard of any other time or place to do it on campus,” King said. “I heard about it yesterday, saw the event on Facebook, and I was there today.”

King said although she considers herself an Independent, she has her mind made up – about the presidential election, at least.

“I’ll be voting for Obama just because I don’t see any of the Republican candidates as too strong this time around,” she said.

For his part, Thompson-Harvey is keeping an open mind when it comes to his vote.

“I’m still weighing my options,” he said.

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