BY CAMILLE TURNER
A new resource for students to easily register to vote, called TurboVote, was recently implemented at the University of Mary Washington. The website can be accessed from the university’s web page and Eaglenet.
After filling out information on the website, the organization sends people voter registration or absentee forms in the mail. The website also offers the option of receiving election reminders through text messaging or email.
The UMW Legislative Action Committee (LAC) and UMW Student Government Association (SGA) worked together to bring TurboVote to UMW.
According to SGA President Stephanie Preston, senior history major at UMW, Virginia21, a nonprofit organization that focuses on higher education in Virginia, is sponsoring TurboVote at UMW.
Preston said Virginia21 helped make TurboVote free for UMW.
“The school did not pay for this at all. It’s free for us to use here on campus, and it’s not coming out of anyone’s wallet,” said Preston.
According to Preston, implementing TurboVote at universities is a statewide initiative. Many Virginia institutions are in the process of bringing the registration tool to their students, she said.
“A lot of students have to go out of their way to get an absentee ballot or go home in order to vote,” said Preston. “With TurboVote, you can essentially register to vote in your pajamas.”
LAC Chair Joe Dolan, sophomore political science and economics major, said the LAC would like to see UMW get first place in Virginia for student voter registration this year.
“It’s such a great tool. I can’t believe that we didn’t have it before,” said Dolan.
According to Dolan, getting students to vote is the most important thing that he deals with as LAC chair.
“The best way to represent the students is to have their voices heard,” said Dolan.
Voter turnout usually falls substantially in a governor’s election compared to a presidential election, according to Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies.
“We all have to live with the consequences of this election, and the more people who participate, the better off we all are,” said Farnsworth.
One of the reasons that the state cut back so much in higher education is because young people are less likely to vote, said Farnsworth. “If young people voted in greater numbers, the political outcomes would be more appealing to them.”
Farnsworth said the complication of having to vote absentee or go out of town makes students less likely to vote.
“They have to go to extra steps to vote, whereas with a person who lives in the community, it’s a very different system,” said Farnsworth.
Molly Smith, junior international affairs major at UMW and president of Democracy Matters, said she believes it is especially important for young people to vote because they will be affected by the long-term effects.
“I don’t know if TurboVote will get people out to vote necessarily, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Smith.
Nikki Maticic, UMW senior biology major, said that she would consider using TurboVote. According to Maticic, students do not have the time to go off campus to register to vote.
“Being able to access it on campus allows students to really participate in the political process,” said Maticic.
Maticic said she believes it is very important for students to vote. “We don’t think that we have as much of an impact as we really do,” said Maticic.
Ben Hermerding, junior political science major and president of the Young Democrats, said he believes democracy is strongest when everyone participates in the system.
“I really hope that students register, no matter how they do it,” said Hermerding.
Farnsworth said no matter how people register to vote, they need to make sure they are successfully registered before the deadline on Oct. 15 for Virginia is general election this year.
“Whatever system you use, you have to double check. If you don’t find out in time, you can’t fix it,” said Farnsworth.
Preston said that she believes it is important for people to exercise their right to vote.
“The people who are elected end up representing you, and it’s important to at least have your voice heard through a vote,” said Preston.