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5 September 2012

Get Out the Vote campaign helps students register, stay informed

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It’s easy for college students to neglect to vote, as they balance a packed schedule of classes, homework and social activity. But UM’s Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign will return to campus for its eighth year to help students get informed and register to vote in November’s presidential election.

Junior Kate Maier registers to vote on the Rock as part of the Get Out the Vote initiative on campus. The GOTV table will be out through Oct. 9. Holly Bensur // Contributing Photographer

Between now and Oct. 9, any UM student can stop by the GOTV table in the UC breezeway Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. to fill out voter registration forms and learn more about the voting process. Students will then be able to head to the Bank United Center on election day to cast their votes.

This year, the campaign will also implement the Turbo Vote initiative, a convenient website where students can request registration forms, absentee ballots, and email or text reminders about voting.

After being contacted by Sam Novey, a student at Harvard University and co-founder of the program, UM was awarded a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to fund the entire operation. The grant will cover the cost of stamps, envelopes, paper and copying.

“We thought that that was such a nice thing and we wanted to implement Turbo Vote really because it’s like another alternative,” said Alessandria San Roman, the GOTV chair who spearheaded the Turbo Vote initiative. “If we can’t catch them there, then they can always try Turbo Vote.”

GOTV has also recruited a partnership with Student Government at the request of President Donna E. Shalala, according to San Roman.

“GOTV is it’s own thing, separate from SG,” said Sean Norris, co-chair of the GOTV committee. “But what SG has brought to the table this time is Turbo Vote. They were aware that we were doing this and thought it’d be a nice complement to our efforts.”

In 2004, the GOTV campaign was able to register approximately 2,000 students with a voter turnout of about 62 percent of that.

San Roman and Norris hope this year’s new Turbo Vote program will help them surpass the 2,000-student mark and improve voter turnout.

GOTV will not stop its work after the Oct. 9 deadline. The committee also wants to inform the voters about both candidates and the issues that will be present on this fall’s ballot. To achieve this, the committee has partnered with the League of Women Voters and plans to hold two informational sessions about voter registration, the responsibilities of voting and issues that directly affect students.

“I feel this is an opportunity for my peers and I to make a difference in the political world through such a small contribution,” freshman Rimsha Chowhan said.

GOTV’s website states that its mission is to “empower other students by registering them to vote and educating them about the issues that affect them.”

“Our sole purpose is to register you and mobilize you,” co-chair of GOTV Ricardo Fraga said. “We don’t care whom you vote for, as long as you’re expressing your opinion and making your voice be heard.”