Picture taken from New Voters Project website. 

With Nov. 8 midterms today, and Florida registration having closed on Oct. 11, Eckerd students from Florida Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) have been organizing events to educate student voters on the process. 

“I think we’ve fabricated a myth in which there are somehow ‘off’ years when it comes to elections,” said senior New Voters Project coordinator Rebecca Simard. “As in, ‘if I just vote for president, that’s enough.’”

Simard explained that the New Voters Project’s primary goal is to ensure that students can vote, and that they’re made aware of the steps before voting day.

“We know that Eckerd students are good at staying on top of their registration,” chapter chair Chloe McKenna said. “It’s getting out to vote that’s hard.”

On Oct. 22, the New Voters Project (NVP) hosted an educational event named “Votes, Totes, and Floats.” The event was designed to educate students on important voter information such as when polls are open, how students can vote without missing classes and shuttle transportation.

“The midterm presents students — especially first years who are just starting their college education — a great opportunity to get right into voting,” McKenna said.

The NVP staged a Get Out The Vote week. The NVP texted students who had pledged to vote to confirm that they knew when election day was and the resources they needed to vote. 

“It’s about fostering a habit,” said McKenna. “I believe young voters will be more vocal in future elections when the abundance of civic engagement mindsets increases.”

In 2020, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) reported 66% national student voter turnout. NSLVE data also reported a 71% student turnout on campuses with a prominent PIRG presence. Both of these turnouts were higher than that of the United States general populace.

The Campus Voters Project has reported that, despite increased student turnout in recent years, the national turnout of youth voters aged 18 to 29 in 2020 was 50%. 

Simard said lack of education concerning the process is a barrier that’s preventing student voter turnout from increasing. One of the NVP’s functions is to “fill in the gaps” of voter education.

Simard explained that educating people is only one part of the process, and that motivating students to vote is just as important. 

“Just offering to go with someone can make the process a lot less intimidating,” Simard said. “Like, ‘let’s get a coffee and then go vote.’ Little steps that destigmatize the process, and make it a part of normal life.”

Simard recommended that students offer alternatives like mail-in ballots to peers who may not have the time to visit polling places. She also suggested that students who are trying to persuade a reluctant peer to vote in an election should accompany them to polling places in order to make the process less daunting.

“We can’t know what young people think until we get every young person voting,” Simard said. 

Simard said that students who are skeptical of the voting process should remember that although there are alternatives such as NGOs, voting is still the most accessible means of civic engagement. 

“It’s one of the simplest ways to ensure your voice is heard,” Simard said. “It’s by no means the be-all-end-all, but it is step one.” 

McKenna can be reached at camckenn@eckerd.edu. For more information on student voting, students can visit https://www.campusvoteproject.org/.

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