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To further its mission promote student engagement, University of Connecticut student advocacy group UConnPIRG has launched a voter registration campaign to encourage students to vote in the upcoming election cycle.
While ConnPIRG organizes a campaign to promote students registering to vote every election cycle, during presidential election years their effort to promote student registration is much more emphasized.
“We do it every election cycle, but the presidential election is when we really go big,” ConnPIRG Campus Organizer Shawna Upton said. “It’s more than about the presidential race, it’s also about local elections for senate, for mayor, for council member.”
Although the 2016 Presidential election cycle has been highly polarizing, UConnPIRG is nonpartisan, concerned only with with turning out the student vote rather than advocating for a particular candidate.
“We have two candidates who are drawing a lot of attention and a lot people are really just paying attention,” said Saman Azimi, ConnPIRG treasurer and seventh semester finance major. “This election is huge and I’m excited to really get a lot of people engaged.”
In the past, ConnPIRG has done a variety of things to encourage students to vote such as running a table on Fairfield Way and in the Homer Babbage Library to help students register. They have also put advertising to encourage registration around campus.
According to Azimi the biggest obstacle for student engagement is not registering to vote.
“A lot of time people don’t know how to register and its not always easy to register, a lot of times you have to go to the Registrar’s office to register to vote,” Azimi said “We wanna make it as easy as possible. ”
Historically, college students are one of the demographics with the lowest voter turnout. According to a 2012 report from the United States Census Bureau, 18 and 24 year old citizens belong to the demographic which is least likely to vote. Specifically, in 2012 only about 38 percent of all college students voted in the presidential race that year.
“We have a large voting block and a lot of our voices are not heard in our government system,” Casey Lambert, a third semester Environmental Science major said. “Our first step to really get Washington to listen to us is to show them that we really care and the best way to do that is to participate in the election”.
The student group has a goal to register 4,000 eligible voters in preparation for the 2016 elections.
“The campaign is running in full force until November, but we think that the effects will last much longer and that they are much more important,” Lambert said.
Besides for their efforts to drive out the vote, ConnPIRG will also be working on a campaign this semester that will towards alleviating poverty in the local area. They are currently working on recruiting new members as well as continuing their campaign to fight pollution by reducing the number of disposable plastic bottles on campus.
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