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The Blue & Gray Press | November 18, 2017

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New Student Group Promotes Voting

With the November House of Representatives election approaching, UMW Votes, a nonpartisan project started by sophomore Thomas Bowman, is encouraging students to vote in the Nov. 2 election.

Bowman began the project after his experience with Gerry Connolly’s congressional campaign in the 11th District of Virginia.  With the importance of this coming election, Bowman was driven by his passion for “democratic outreach and a yearning to ensure peoples’ voices were heard.”

UMW Votes is “an absentee balloting drive on steroids,” Bowman said. The project strives to get students involved in the election through registering to vote, filling out absentee ballots and filling out pledge to vote cards.

Republican incumbent Robert Wittman, Democratic candidate Krystal Ball and independent candidate Gail Parker are the respective contenders in the upcoming election.

This year, Ryan Gallasch President of the Young Democrats, Erica Gouse Chairman of the College Republicans and William Spaulding Legislative Action Committee (LAC) Chair have been summoned to assist UMW Votes.

According to Bowman, in the past, the College Republicans and the Young Democrats would go to the residence halls and hand out absentee ballot requests. However, the clubs never checked to see if people received or filled out the requests correctly.

According to Gouse, the College Republicans have never gone to residence halls to hand out absentee ballot requests.

“We have never done that because it’s ineffective for our party,” Gouse said. “On the College Republican stance, we support getting people informed and voting. We will help out with initiatives to do that on campus.”

Gallasch said the Young Democrats have always made sure ballots were correctly filled out.

“These efforts are bipartisan in the sense we don’t require you to be a Democrat to get the forms,” Gallasch said. “We check to make sure people fill the forms out correctly and actually offer to mail them in for them. We do these drives multiple times before elections.”

In addition, Gouse said the College Republicans have not been highly involved in UMW Votes.

“The College Republicans’s involvement in UMW Votes was significantly less than what Bowman would have liked,” Gouse said.  “Bowman needed volunteers and time from my club that we couldn’t give because our main focus was getting Congressman Rob Wittman re-elected.”

According to Gallasch, the Young Democrats’ involvement in UMW Votes has also been minor.

“The Young Democrats’ involvement in UMW Votes has been limited as we already had planned much of our voter registration programs already,” Gallasch said. “We provided Thomas with any help he needed, but that came down to a forum at our weekly meetings because most of the logistical support he needed he got from LAC.”

Sophomore Britnae Purdy is excited about the upcoming election.
“There’s been so much happening around campus in regards to the candidates and their issues,” Purdy said. “However I wish that the UMW Votes were doing more to educate about how to change your registration from your hometown to Fredericksburg.”

Spaulding, LAC chair, was pleased with the initiative to draw both Democrats and Republicans together.

“As far as the Young Democrats and College Republicans, I have always disliked highly polarized politics, especially when their get-out-the-vote efforts revolve solely around voting for one particular party,” Spaulding said.  “Therefore, I think it’s great that we are all working together with one common goal: to get more students to vote.”

UMW Votes also succeeded in promoting the LAC’s big event, Constitution Day.

“UMW Votes has assisted the LAC with accomplishing one of its primary goals for fall semester: holding a successful event for Constitution Day that in some way teaches students about the importance of the U.S. Constitution,” Spaulding said.