National Voter Registration Day was Sept. 22, and the University of Maine did its part to help get as many people registered and involved as possible. Professor of Political Science Rob Glover, has hired 10 voting ambassadors to ensure that voter registration is as easy as possible for UMaine’s student population. By setting up three separate voting drives located all across campus, Glover and his ambassadors, as well as the UMaine Coordinator for Leadership Development Jenny Desmond, worked together to make voter registration accessible to everyone at UMaine.
“It’s been a team effort,” Glover said about planning the voting registration drives. “We have been working closely with Student Life and UMaine Uvote. Jenny Desmond has been a fantastic partner. The grant opportunity emerged with a pretty short deadline, so putting it together to fund these efforts was essential.”
The voting drives were set up on the University Mall, the Stewart Quad and on the Hilltop Quad. All drives were open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and two voting ambassadors managed each booth. There, the voting ambassadors were able to walk people through the process of voting, voter registration and field any questions they had about the process or the registration form.
This project was driven by enthusiasm from both Glover and UMaine’s voting ambassadors. It comes down to creating a non-partisan environment, where students are able to get involved in the democratic process.
“I think it’s a fact that everyone who has the right to vote should accept it,” Glover said. “We can’t expect policymakers to represent people who don’t turn out. Voting is the clearest institutional pathway for representation. If you want the system to represent you, you have to take part in the process.”
In 2016, UMaine had a large voter turnout, and this year, they are looking for even more students to vote. Sparking an interest and making resources accessible to people is what motivates people to vote, and what will help maximize involvement and turnout come election day on Nov. 3.
Glover’s voting ambassadors intend to help garner student interest in voting. He had a lot of applicants but Glover explained that he was searching for students that demonstrated they had a passion for voting. He wanted to find someone in a program of study that typically had a lower voter turnout, as the political science students usually go to the polls in high volumes due to their courses stressing the importance of voting. Glover says he has hired 10 students from diverse educational backgrounds.
Voting ambassadors have also been working tirelessly over the last several weeks to educate students on voter registration. They have been setting up meetings with several classes over Zoom, informing students on the importance of voting and answering any questions they have about registering. Students involved with voter registration have found it to be a rewarding experience.
“The most fulfilling part is helping first time voters realize that voter registration is easy, and it lets people know that they are being taken care of,” Student Voting Ambassador Keely Mcconville said.
As far as a timeline for registering to vote, registering earlier rather than later is recommended.
“We have been stressing that it pays off to start on this early,” Glover said. “In the state of Maine we have same-day registration, but it pays to be proactive and start early.” He explains that people can vote with absentee ballots earlier than Nov. 3, mentioning that there is no reason to delay the voting process, and everyone should begin thinking about their personal voting plan to ensure that their vote will count this November.
When the student population shows up to vote on Election Day, it lets the people in elected positions know that students are paying attention, and want to be represented and acknowledged. The work done by Desmond, Glover and the student voting ambassadors shows a drive and dedication to letting student voices be heard in this coming election. Students have the resources available to them to get educated on voter registration, how to fill out an absentee ballot and solid information on how the voting process works. With the effects of COVID-19 still present, it is important that everyone takes the necessary precautions to vote safely and effectively on Nov. 3.