Grant enables university to further engage student voters

Get Out The Vote (GOTV)/ TurboVote hosted the first of two VoteSmart talks Wednesday night, in the hopes of creating informed citizens when students enter the voting booths this November.

The League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County, the non-partisan political organization that led the event, addressed issues such as health care, immigration and the economy. They also taught college students about the importance of voting.

“There’s 40 million of you. If 70 percent of college students voted, you would be calling every election,” said Maribel Balbin, president of the League of Women Voters.

During the summer, the League approached UM about visiting campus to talk to students about the importance of voting from a non-partisan standpoint.

However, only about 10 students were present for the League’s talk because the event’s timing coincided with the Univision telecast featuring Gov. Mitt Romney in the Fieldhouse Wednesday evening.

“I personally couldn’t go because I received a ticket to the Romney event, but I think it’s very important for UM students to be active within the community,” said Jared Payne, a junior studying international relations and public health policy. “I think it’s crucial that people be politically active. Of course when you have an event that’s with an actual presidential candiate on campus, it’s hard for an organization to compete with that.”

Florida Campus Compact awarded the Butler Center for Service and Leadership a $1,000 grant to host the two VoteSmart talks. Part of the budget went toward printing voter guides distributed at the event, which students can reference during the November election.

Florida Campus Compact sent the Butler Center an email regarding the opportunity to apply for the grant, according to GOTV/TurboVote Chair Alessandria San Roman.

“Once we sent in the application, we received the good news approximately two to three weeks later,” she said.

The Campus Democracy Project offers this grant as an initiative that encourages universities to empower their students by making it easier for them to be engaged in the election process.

“As citizens, we have a duty to actively engage in civic awareness and be a part of the election process,” San Roman said. “Students should be able to make informed decisions. They should vote in every election, including local and state, because these decisions affect us not only in the present, but in the long term.”

Another VoteSmart talk will take place in October, shortly before Florida’s voter registration period closes. Though the date has not yet been set, the topic of discussion has. The second civic dialogue will address local and national ballot issues.

Students, faculty, staff and members of the local community can attend the upcoming VoteSmart event in order to become more informed and engaged citizens.

“We have the opportunity to make or change the course of American history, and we should take advantage of it every chance we have,” San Roman said.