UConnPIRG hosts ‘Ballot Block Party’

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Several University of Connecticut organizations hosted giveaways, talked to students about voting and offered free cake to get students excited about voting in this year’s midterm elections at UConnPIRG’s Ballot Block Party on Friday. (Brandon Barzola/The Daily Campus)

Several University of Connecticut organizations hosted giveaways, talked to students about voting and offered free cake to get students excited about voting in this year’s midterm elections at UConnPIRG’s Ballot Block Party on Friday.

Undergraduate Student Government, Her Campus, WHUS Radio, UConn Learning Communities and other student groups also participated in the event, with WHUS Radio hosting a silent disco and giving out laptop stickers. UConn Learning Communities also had a demo called “separation anxiety” at their table that signified the importance of balancing all the aspects of student life on campus through community support.

Chadwick Schroeder, a member of UConnPIRG and a third-semester political science and environmental studies major, said UConnPIRG wanted to get other organizations involved in the event in order to emphasize that voting is multifaceted.

“We see all these different tables as different aspects that all go into the same idea of voting and all of these ideas of civic engagement,” Schroeder said.

Chadwick said students are more likely to want to vote and become involved if the university approaches them from all angles.

“If they see students on campus wearing shirts telling them to register to vote, if they have their professors talking about voting on campus, they’re going to be a lot more likely to actually turn out and see that voting is super important,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder said the T-shirts, which were printed with “I’m a HUSKY, I’m a VOTER,” are particularly helpful because they allow students to identify with each other and the campus as a whole.

“There’s this culture around voting that says, ‘I’m a Husky, and I’m a voter,’” Schroeder said.

UConnPIRG students also promoted BallotReady at the event, which is an online platform that allows students to customize their own voting guides for elections in their respective districts, PIRG member Parth Patel said.

Patel, a third-semester molecular and cell biology and political science major, said BallotReady is easy to access and use for students looking to vote.

“All you have to do is put in where you live and it’ll tell you about candidate stances within your district as well as quotes they have,” Patel said. “So you can make an informed decision.”

Patel said the customizable guides individuals can make with the website will help them vote with ease and confidence.

“On Nov. 6, all you have to do is look at the email that you got after going through the online form,” Patel said. “You just select people off of that.”

Patel said he is extremely grateful BallotReady exists to make voting more understandable and approachable for college students.

“Having a website that’s not partisan out there just to tell you about a candidate,” Patel said. “It’s a great way to help college students make an easy decision fast since everything is there and it’s accessible.”

Jonathan Perry, a first-semester psychology major, said the block party is important because it appeals to a demographic that has historically low turnouts in elections: Young people.

“If you ever ask anyone how the political climate is going, they’re usually not happy about it,” Perry said. “We think that young people voting is important because it encourages them to be activists now and throughout their lives.”

Fiorella Contreras, the outreach vice chair of Student Services USG and a third-semester political science and communications major, said it is vital that USG gets involved in conversations about voting because it is the central democracy on campus.

“Us [USG] being the representative body, we also have elections in which people vote for us,” Contreras said. “I think that that should just translate into local and state politics. People should have a voice with us, but also with outside politics.”

USG also put up a tri-fold board titled, “I vote because…” and allowed students to write their response on a sticky note and attach it to the board.

““We’re trying to spread awareness about why people vote for different reasons such as ‘because I can,’ ‘because it’s my civic duty,’ ‘because I like environmental rights,’ things like that,” Contreras said.

Learning communities are also helpful in encouraging people to vote because the organizations contribute to the values of teamwork, Anna Tobiasz, the LCEC student leadership chair and a fifth-semester mechanical engineering major, said.

“We have a large incoming class of freshmen, so we want to promote a sense of community,” Tobiasz said. “We want students to feel as though they have an opinion, so it’s important for young people to recognize the fact that voting is important.”

“It is crucial for learning communities to make a difference in the lives of young voters as soon as they arrive to the university,” Nick Furlow, the LCEC recruitment chair and a third-semester management information systems major, said.

“A lot of them [students] are 18 when they arrive, so this is their first time having the responsibility to vote and have a voice,” Furlow said. “The resources to vote are also nearby so students don’t have to go all the way back to their state or back home to go vote, they can vote right here on campus.”

Shira Tall, the operations manager of WHUS Radio and a fifth-semester communications and human rights major, said other organizations getting involved in the process of voting helps increase exposure and community within the university.

“We [WHUS] were invited here by PIRG to collab as tier III organizations, and it was really something we wanted to be a part of,” Tall said. “We want to be able to encourage people to vote and draw in constituents and let them know what we have to offer.”