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More than 250 VCU students have been registered to vote through various student organizations’ cooperative voting drives.
With the assistance of the university, student organizations are helping unregistered VCU students register to vote through voting drives around campus and email reminders.
Young Democrats (YDs), College Republicans and the Student Government Association (SGA) have all worked to assist in the sometimes-complicated process.
“It’s nice to know you get people engaged … This is one of the best parts of what we do,” said James Newman, vice president of membership for the Young Democrats. The YDs have been an active part of the drive, with a table outside the Commons three times a week. They plan to keep the table there until Oct. 17, when the deadline ends for upcoming local elections.
Students, however, are not required to register for local Richmond elections – they are welcome to provide a non-local address. If they choose to do so, they will not be registered for local elections, but elections in whatever locale they provide.
The university is also taking part in the registration process, despite some initial setbacks.
On Sept. 14, an email was sent from the VCU Registrar’s Office giving students a link to access the voter registration form.
“They had no mention of proper steps needed to take to fill out a form correctly (and) no warm, welcoming invitation to the process of civic engagement,” said Victoria Yeroian, president of the YDs. The complaints from student organizations not only commented on the tone of the email, but that the link was initially not working properly and that the message didn’t mention the organizations’ efforts to register students on campus.
“I’m sorry if it came off as insensitive, but the intention was only to inform about that form,” university registrar and director Anjour Harris said in defense of the email.
The email was sent to uphold a long-standing law requiring colleges to inform students on the method for registration and Harris said the message was fulfilling its purpose and that the link itself provided a great deal of information. The problem with the link to the form was fixed almost as soon as the Registrar’s Office was informed.
Despite this year’s issues, the email system has improved things considerably, Harris said.
Prior to this system, VCU would provide forms at campus service centers, making informing students difficult and circulation limited to on-campus students. Now the email is sent via the telegram system, and all VCU students are given the necessary information to register.
“(Student organizations) can run their own articles (and) use the telegram to let students know about registrations,” Harris said. “I think students would listen to other students more.”
At their table set up outside the Commons, the YDs provide the necessary paperwork and assist students filling out the one-page registration form. The completed forms are then brought to city hall by the organization.
“We’ll register anybody,” said Michael Plumb, volunteer coordinator of the YDs.
VCU sophomore Jerry Walters said he chose to register through the YDs table because he said he felt a responsibility to vote now that he was old enough to do so.
“The presidential election is coming up within the next year so I figured it’s a good idea for me to start getting an idea of who the candidates are and what I should be doing,” he said.
Walters said he was planning to go to the post office to register but saw the table and decided that it was more convenient to register on campus.
While some of the organizations involved have a particular political tie, they assure their intention is simply to get as many students involved as possible.
Photos by Amber-Lynn Taber