NU Votes registers 800 students on move-in day after changes to protocol

A student casts a ballot at Northwestern during the 2012 presidential election. NU’s student-run voter registration program, NU Votes, has gained praise in Congress for increasing college students’ voter participation.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

A student casts a ballot at Northwestern during the 2012 presidential election. NU’s student-run voter registration program, NU Votes, has gained praise in Congress for increasing college students’ voter participation.

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






A voter registration effort headed by NU Votes helped register about 800 new students to vote this fall, despite changes in the Wildcat Welcome protocol that made reaching students more difficult, the Center for Civic Engagement announced this month.

NU Votes, a nonpartisan CCE initiative in its fourth year, distributed registration forms at residence hall welcome centers on move-in day, then collected and mailed them for the students. The group, which is staffed by students, registered voters in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

“We try to integrate (registration) into school institutions,” said Diana Balitaan (SESP ’14) who stayed on for a second year as an NU Votes student coordinator despite graduating in the spring. “We try to institutionalize this program so that it’s something that happens all the time and so that we can reach the most students.”

The number of newly registered students dropped slightly from previous years due to a change in Wildcat Welcome protocol, CCE associate director Rob Donahue said.

In past years, NU Votes distributed registration forms over the course of a week while students waited in line at the WildCARD office in Norris University Center. This year, WildCARDs were distributed all in one day at six welcome centers.

“Instead of doing one place over six days, we had to do six places in one day,” Donahue said. “We knew it was going to be a lot more work for the student staff that were being trained to go out and handle that. It was definitely more work this way.”

But SESP junior Qiddist Hammerly, a CCE fellow and one of NU Votes’ leaders, said there were benefits to the welcome center approach.

“That reduced the wait times and the long lines by a lot because we were spread out across campus,” Hammerly said. “So because of that we were able to talk to a lot more people, which was helpful.”

NU Votes reached about 1,600 students this year, 29 percent of who said they were already registered. Of the remaining students who were eligible to vote, about 89 percent are now registered. That percentage is consistent with previous years’ totals, Donahue said.

Northwestern’s model of institutionalizing voter registration, an initiative called UVote, has attracted attention from other colleges. Schools such as Washington University in St. Louis and DePaul University have implemented the UVote program, Donahue said.

In October 2012, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., praised the program’s efforts to increase college students’ voter participation on the floor of the House of Representatives.

This year, Hammerly said, NU Votes will expand beyond registering voters to spreading the word about the election, informing voters on where and how to vote and encouraging those who are registered to show up at the polls.

“The right to vote is something that’s very important that’s been denied for years,” Balitaan said. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, my vote probably doesn’t count at a federal level. My vote probably doesn’t count at all.’ But it’s been proven that the more engaged people are in voting, the more likely they are to engage in other things.”

Email: asputt@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @AlexPutt02


Previous stories on this topic:

    NU Votes gets mention on floor of Congress
    NU Votes registers students for 2012 election
    Alpha Phi Alpha, NU Votes host voter registration drive


 

Comments