'USF Votes' Expands Student Registration

By Heleene Tambet, USF News Posted Fri, 02/16/2018 - 14:30

By registering 1,000 new voters in the last six months, USF has joined the top 10 colleges and universities in the country running student voter drives. 

News of the ranking comes as the country celebrates Presidents Day. USF currently ranks ninth in the nation for new voter registration, according to TurboVote, a website dedicated to making voting accessible for college students. The voter drive — known as USF Votes — is one of multiple campus initiatives created to engage students in the democratic process.

“We want to give students who enter the campus a signal that this is a place where you have a voice, your voice matters, and voting can be easy and serve as one very important route to civic engagement,” says Angeline Vuong, community-engaged learning program manager at the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good.

The McCarthy Center spearheaded the USF Votes initiative in partnership with USF's Office of Student Leadership and Engagement and the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a national nonprofit that promotes diversity and democratic participation. 

Diversify democracy

USF Votes' goal is to reach 100 percent eligible voter registration on campus, up from 76.6 percent in 2016. Only about 55 percent of USF students voted in the 2016 presidential election, a figure on par with most college campuses but one USF Votes would like to see increase. 

“As a USF Votes team leader I really challenge myself to bring voter registration and education into spaces where I know we have statistically had low voter turnout, and bridge our communities through that,” says Kiana Martinez '18, a double-major in critical diversity studies and sociology. “Being a first-generation student of color, I find that diversity in and outside the classroom contributes to our growth.”

California effect

As part of its efforts to educate students on voting rights and democratic issues, the McCarthy Center has also organized an on-campus speaker series featuring top candidates in California’s governor race. Co-hosted with political news publisher POLITICO, the free series runs through March.

“We are pleased to bring the gubernatorial candidates to USF so new and long-time voters alike can learn about their vision for California and their stance on the issues,” said David Donahue, McCarthy Center director. “At a time when the governor of California’s influence extends far beyond the state, this speaker series presents an opportunity to focus in-depth on each candidate’s views.”

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