Home2019-2020Issue 11Voter registration event promotes political participation

Voter registration event promotes political participation

Reed Bertran

Staff writer

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Emma McEvoy’s name.

In an effort to increase voter registration among Willamette students, the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU), the College Republicans and the College Democrats sponsored a voter registration table that stood in Jackson Plaza on Nov. 7 and 8. The table was run by volunteers from all three organizations. 

In a description of the event, the Willamette website states, “ASWU, the College Democrats and the College Republicans will be tabling with voter registration information to help students register, change their address or request an absentee ballot to vote while at school!” 

Alexander Knorr (’22), president of the Willamette College Republicans and one of the central organizers of the event, discussed the mission of the voter registration drive and its target audience.

“The project was initially spearheaded by the first-year class in ASWU who hoped to register first-year students who had not had the opportunity to do so yet. They approached the College Democrats and Republicans and got both organizations engaged in the process. In order to register first-year students, we concentrated our advertising efforts to first-year residence halls and other spaces that first-years utilize on campus. We also used various social media platforms to advertise for the event as well.”

The table itself was set up in Jackson Plaza on Thursday from 2:00-5:00 p.m., as well as on Friday during the same hours. Volunteers from the College Republicans, College Democrats and ASWU passed out candy and voter registration stickers to those who visited the booth and utilized the resources there to register to vote. According to Knorr, there were at least 10 Willamette students who used to the booth to register to vote. 

Bethany Abbate (’22), the president of the College Democrats and another lead organizer of the event, discussed the impact she believed the voting booth had on campus and the need for further events aimed at increasing political participation among students: “We were definitely able to register a number of individuals. However, I think it is always hard to reach every possible individual that may not be registered. While I think that tabling is valuable, as it is a way to have direct face-to-face communication with individuals through this process, I think it would be worthwhile for us to also try and pursue other potential strategies that are a bit more direct towards the audience that we are trying to reach.” 

Abbate also suggested possible future events the College Democrats may host on campus to help students get involved with politics on campus and in Salem: “We are hosting a Democratic debate watch party on Nov. 20 and are hoping to continually host these in the future as we dive deeper into the election season. We are also looking to host an elected officials panel and try to streamline more ways to get involved into politics locally, particularly with connections at the Marion County Democrats and across the street at the State Capitol.”

Quinna Sypher (‘23), an ASWU senator, secretary for the Willamette College Democrats and one of the main organizers of the voter registration booth, also spoke to her experience planning and coordinating the event: “I helped bring together the ASWU Caucus and College Democrats, which is where the project was able to get started. I serve as the whip within my ASWU caucus for the class of 2023, so my main role is essentially project management for our semester project, in this case, the voter registration event. I helped to coordinate communication between the two organizations, train the volunteers to table and make sure everything was running smoothly.”

Sypher also discussed the possibilities of continuing to produce voter registration events on campus, saying, “We’d love to keep this going! I think it will depend on the leadership of the organizations next year for who exactly is involved, but we all really enjoyed being able to bring this specific focus to a voter registration event here and would love to see it happen again.”

Members of the ASWU caucus of 2023 who worked along with Sypher to produce this event include Emma McEvoy, Bryleigh O’Neil, Michael Burke and Olivia Frenkel.

rgbertran@willamette.edu

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