Get Out the Vote focuses on increasing civic engagement a year after presidential election

File photo.
File photo.

Presidential elections historically have the highest voter turnout rates in the United States, but at the University of Miami, Get Out the Vote is ensuring that students on campus know it’s important to be civically engaged all the time.

GOTV, a student organization focused on providing students with education, registration and involvement opportunities, has been working to show students how their voices matter in local government.

Senior Brianna Hernandez, the club’s president, said though last year’s presidential election was important, students need to realize that local politicians are the ones who affect day-to-day lives.

“A lot of students, especially in a hyper polarized climate, don’t want to be involved at the national level, just because their candidates aren’t following what they necessarily believe,” said Hernandez, a political science and history double major. “But that doesn’t mean that they should stop being active.”

Rafael Paz, assistant director of operations for the organization, said this year’s main focus is to increase the group’s presence in Coral Gables. Paz said it’s important for students to see the value in being civically involved in their local government. It holds local politicians accountable, he said.

GOTV made an appearance at a Coral Gables commission meeting on Oct. 10 to represent UM, keep commissioners “on their toes” and communicate UM students’ interests.

“That’s something that really makes a difference,” Paz said. “UM comprises a large tax base, so it’s good for us to be involved and represented from time to time.”

Last year, with the presidential election on the horizon, GOTV hosted various events on campus to educate and register students. The organization registered about 2,500 students to vote in the crucial swing state of Florida, Paz said.

This year, GOTV has had multiple registration drives on campus and registered a total of 63 students to vote in Florida’s midterm primaries in early 2018.

Paz said the organization learned from last year, and is making sure students are aware that registration deadlines are in place during election seasons. He said many students weren’t aware about the deadline last year and were unable to vote in Florida.

“We could have pushed the registration deadline a little bit more,” he said. “We did mention it but maybe we could’ve done better to market it. Maybe more people could have been registered.”

Apart from registration efforts, GOTV has also been working on educating students on civic involvement and on how to take what they learn in the classroom out into the real world.

GOTV will be hosting a “Civic Talk” later this month to raise awareness on the importance of being engaged within the community. Student Stephanie Rodriguez, who is spearheading the event, said the night will focus on explaining how civic engagement is much more than simply voting in an election.

“Your voice still matters when a ballot is not cast … You have to hold your people accountable,” said Rodriguez, a political science and history double major. “When the ballot comes around in two years, if you don’t know what they did in those two years you picked them, how are you going to know if they did a good job or not?”

IF YOU GO: Civic Talk will be hosted at 7 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Rathskeller.