In the wake of an unusual presidential election, ETSU Votes is hitting the semester full-force, registering and informing voters.
ETSU is taking up the challenge laid out late this past spring to all Southern Conference schools by Mercer student Joey Wozniak. Using athletic parlance, like “rivalries” and “game plans,” SoCon Votes is a competition urging conference schools to vie for best voting turnout in their respective schools.
Based on data for each school’s voting record in the 2012 general election, a “most improved” category will also honor the school who sees the biggest jump in voting turnout.
With a series of events and forums — from fun to educational — lined up through the night of the general election, ETSU Votes is eager to get as many students as possible to cast a ballot on Nov. 8, and if necessary, to vote early or cast an absentee ballot.
ACTS Director Carla Warner stresses that this initiative is nonpartisan, and the goal is to bring an informed message to ETSU’s diverse student body.
“One of the things with young people is some of them are very engaged in the whole [political] process and civic involvement,” Warner said. “Maybe they grew up around it discussed at the dinner table, but there are other students who, for whatever reason, have a psychological distance from it.”
“With ETSU Votes, we want our faculty and staff to share with students why it’s important to vote,” she added. “They can learn about what some candidates stand for, and that they may share your values. These are things that will affect your life and your future.”
Warner said she was pleased with the 38 percent turnout of students who voted in 2012, but that the university is serious in connecting with more students and guiding them through the entire process — from voter registration to learning the platforms of candidates to where to vote to casting an absentee ballot.
“ETSU has a lot of out-of-state students, so we can get them the pre-planning they need if they can’t get to their designated voting location on Nov. 8,” she said.
With more than a dozen upcoming events planned (the full schedule can be found at http://www.etsu.edu/etsuvotes), ETSU has a two-phase “game plan” (a term shared across this competition) from voter registration to nonpartisan guidance.
Event highlights include the Student Government Association-sponsored Issues and Hot Topics Fair, Sep. 13 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; “grassroots” voting party, Sep. 27 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; vice presidential debate watch party at the Cave; Alpha Delta Pi-sponsored block party “Rock the Vote,” Oct. 5 (times TBD); “2016: An Election Unlike Any Other?” faculty panel discussion, Oct. 18 7 to 9 p.m.; and presidential election results watch party at the Cave.
Many of the events will be aimed at having fun, though all with a serious purpose. Specifically of Alpha Delta Pi’s “Rock the Vote,” Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Shawn Dowiak said, “The goal of the day is to set people to vote in the presidential election and to participate in the electoral process.”
While the general election is the focus, Warner said ETSU Votes also encourages students to be informed and active in midterm elections, state and local government elections.
The initiative in helping students “understand the issues,” as Warner states, is off to a promising start.
“We’re doing really well,” she said. “I think we have a shot at recognition [from SoCon Votes].”
As the faculty panel discussion alludes to in its title “An Election Unlike Any Other?” the presidential election thus far has been especially contentious and nontraditional in many respects. In spite of this, Warner urges students to be respectful of each other’s viewpoints, even if they do not agree politically.
Nevertheless, with a full itinerary in place (subject and amiable to any student groups who want to get involved), ETSU Votes will be a resource and reminder of the upcoming election.
Early voting begins Oct. 19 and absentee ballot requests last until Nov. 1.