On Tuesday, Sept. 25, the nation celebrated National Voter Registration Day, and the University of Maine partnered in this effort to get people registered to vote.
Efforts to engage students on campus included two booths in the Memorial Union and on the university Mall, which registered close to 200 voters. Over a dozen students also signed up to volunteer on election day. In addition to the on-campus activities for voter registration, those helping out with the event also spent the week going into classrooms in the Bangor and Old Town areas to hand out voter registration cards.
The windy weather did not deter those wanting to take part in their civic duty. Max Harris, a business-marketing student, and several other first-year students took advantage of the opportunity that the National Voter Registration Day booth presented.
“I was hesitant to register to vote because I didn’t think registering was this easy. It’s a good event to have,” Harris said.
In addition to registration cards, the booth on the Mall offered election-related freebies such as stickers and raffle tickets. Participants who entered the drawing had the chance to win a selection of prizes ranging from gift cards to the UMaine Bookstore, UMaine versus UNH hockey tickets and an iPad. Members of the campus community also had the opportunity to fill out a sign explaining “Why I Vote” and be photographed with it as part of a video to promote voter turnout.
Voters had many different motivations that brought them out on National Voter Registration Day, but overall the consensus was that it was an opportunity to make a change and have their voices heard.
Noah Robbin, a first-year business student, made his reasoning clear and simple: “It’s every citizen’s duty; you cannot complain if you didn’t vote.”
The Union also had a table where people could register to vote. Marina Cucuz is a graduate student at UMaine who tended the table. Cucuz said she was representing the 500 Women Scientists group of UMaine, a national grassroots organization that builds local chapters where women in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, can “meet regularly, develop a support network, make strategic plans, and take action,” according to the group’s website.
“We all should definitely vote and it’s very convenient that it is done right here on campus, so there is really no excuse to not do it,” Cucuz said.
Despite the convenience of on-campus voting, student voter turnout is traditionally low, especially during midterm elections. Last midterm election the student turnout was only 29 percent which is a factor contributing to the local push to get students voting this year, according to professor of political science Rob Glover. Since 2002, eligible voter turnout as a state has continuously increased and this year is projected to be a larger turnout, according to a report from News Center Maine.
“Voting is both a privilege and a right, and the stakes have never been politically higher,” Dana Carver-Bailer, a volunteer administrator, said.
Maine is being watched closely by the nation since the split presidential electoral vote last year. Now, the whole nation is curious as to how the state will vote in 2018. The congressional race between Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Jared Golden is also of great interest as it has the potential to go either way. If Golden wins, that would be the first time an incumbent lost in Maine’s second Congressional District since 1916.
If you missed the chance to register on National Voter Registration Day you can still register or request an absentee ballot in the Student Wellness Center any time before Oct. 5. There is also the opportunity of same-day registration in all Maine elections.