NU Votes gets mention on floor of Congress


Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Weinberg sophomore Kayla Hammersmith casts her ballot for the 2012 presidential election last Tuesday in Parkes Hall. It was Hammersmith's first time voting.

Zachary Harris, Reporter

UVote, a voter registration project started at Northwestern, received more national praise recently when Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) congratulated NU’s efforts on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Initiated by the Center for Civic Engagement, UVote began two years ago as NU Votes, a group aimed specifically at registering incoming NU students. Since then, the project has evolved into a national program to help simplify the voting process for college students by working with universities to make registration more accessible.

Addressing Congress last month, Schakowsky highlighted the project’s efforts to increase college students’ participation in this year’s election.

“I rise today to express my thanks and support for recent actions by NU to help students register to vote and navigate increasingly complex and strict voter registration procedures nationwide,” Schakowsky said, according to the Congressional Record.

Project coordinator and SESP senior Becca Portman initiated the registration program. She said she was excited about the national attention UVote has drawn.

“Because the goal is for UVote to be a national program, the attention from the media and lawmakers makes our goal more feasible,” she said.

UVote partnered this year with the WildCARD office to allow freshmen to register to vote when they picked up their student identification cards during orientation. For the 2012 election season, UVote partnered with eight universities and helped register more than 5,000 students across the country.

The program attempts to bridge the unique problems facing universities’ voter pools. Because there are different registration laws for all 50 states — and students have the option to register in their home state or the state where they attend school — registering college student voters can be very complicated.

Robert Donahue, associate director of the Center for Civic Engagement, said the simplified procedures UVote developed allows participating universities to more easily register their students, regardless of their home state.

“Northwestern has brain power,” he said. “We are using that brain power to find simple procedures to register voters in all 50 states. It can and should be the norm in the U.S. that when you turn 18, you should be encouraged to register to vote.”

In the future, Portman said the Center for Civic Engagement hopes to continue spreading the project across the country to work toward helping college students becoming more involved citizens. As the program grows, the center will focus on developing strategies for bringing in revenue.

“We’re working on finding funding sources that will help make UVote a sustainable venture,” she said.