Student activist group UConnPIRG hopes to encourage voter turnout in University of Connecticut students through the New Voters Project (NVP) campaign it will run throughout the semester.
“During every major election cycle… our lead campaign is our New Voters Project (NVP),” UConnPIRG chapter chair Walter Dodson said. “The last time we ran NVP in 2016, we registered 2,400 students to vote and increased voter turnout in Mansfield by 23 percent.”
UConnPIRG’s goals are to register 2,500 students to vote before the Nov. 6 midterms and continue to increase voter turnout in Mansfield, Dodson said. To do this, the group plans to collaborate with other student organizations to raise awareness of the upcoming elections.
“We want to work together on events such as tabling and class announcements, all to register students to vote,” UConnPIRG recruitment drive coordinator Kyleigh Hillerud said. “We’ll be teaming up with the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), specifically with the external affairs committee, to get the student body registered to vote.”
Dodson said UConnPIRG and USG have the responsibility to protect students’ rights to vote and make voting as easy as possible.
“We are two of the largest, most well-known organizations on campus, so we also have the responsibility to execute UConn’s mission statement,” Dodson said. “Part of that mission statement is civic engagement, and that is something we feel passionate about. We feel that democracy is strengthened when students use their right to a voice, which is their right to vote.”
UConnPIRG is also in the beginning stages of planning a “rock the vote” event for the day of the midterm elections, with the potential of collaborating with other Tier III organizations, Hillerud said.
“Vice Chair and NVP Campaign Coordinator Emily O’Hara’s vision is to have this be a massive campus-wide event that will be focused in the Student Union, Fairfield Way and/or on the Student Union Mall,” Dodson said. “(It will be) a massive, big event, maybe with some vans and local student groups and organizations, all coming together to show the campus and local community that students do care.”
Dodson said he believes it is important for students to vote because students are underrepresented in congress, legislatures and government as a whole.
“We want to shape the campus culture and make it so that voting is an integral part (of that culture),” Dodson said. “We want students to come to UConn as freshmen or transfers and (we) want them to know students at UConn take their civic responsibilities seriously.”
UConnPIRG hopes students become more involved in politics and express their opinions through voting, Dodson said.
“Because students are overlooked, so are our needs and what’s important,” Dodson said. “Politicians need to care about our needs and our wants because we are the future of Connecticut, we are the future of this nation and we will be shaping this country.”
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.