U. Massachusetts Campus Organizations Work On Deadline To Get Out The Vote

This story was written by Matt Rocheleau, Massachusetts Daily Collegian


The five-campus University of Massachusetts System hopes to register 8,000 students to vote in the upcoming presidential election by Wednesday's deadline.

At UMass Amherst, several groups are making a final push to reach the specific campus' goal of registering 5,000 students.

The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG), University Democrats, and Cannabis Reform Coalition have combined to register 1,500 students as of Tuesday night with a goal of 3,000 by the end of today, said Tracie Konopski, MASSPIRG campus organizer.

The Student Government Association had registered 1,000 students as of last night and hopes to total 1,200 by the deadline, said SGA president Malcolm Chu.

"We've been registering a lot of freshman and students who weren't registered two years ago," said Yasmin Abbyad, vice chair of MASSPIRG. "We will definitely get close to our goal."

MASSPIRG will continue to hand out voter registration cards today across campus, especially at bus stops along North Pleasant Street. Members can be spotted wearing bright yellow t-shirts displaying the web address www.studentvote.org, where students can register online, said Abbyad.

The SGA has been visiting classrooms and lecture halls to hand out registration cards, provide information and answer students' questions, said Chu.

The University Democrats have also been visited classrooms where they were invited, said club president Emma Einhorn. The group has registered about 550 students and handed out over 600 absentee ballots, she said.

"We are not just focused on getting students registered, we want to give students the opportunity to vote," said Einhorn.

MASSPIRG, the SGA and UMass Democrats plan to organize a bussing service to bring students from campus to several polling stations in Amherst so they can vote on November 4. Unlike past elections, there will not be a place for students to vote on campus this year. Instead, students will be directed to one of three locations based on where they live on campus.

The New Voters Project, a nonpartisan effort to register young people and get them to the polls on Election Day, has focused on "dorm storms," or knocking on doors in residence halls and reminding students to register, said Katie Perry, the project's campaign coordinator.

The project registers students on college campuses across the U.S and plan to register about 25,000 in New England.

The group recognizes some students have already registered on their own, but others may need some help.

"We want to be there as a resource for students who do not have a connection on how to register to vote," said Perry.

The Cannabis Reform Coalition, Center for Education Policy Advocacy, UMass Labor Coalition, Civic Initiative, and the Women of Color Leadership Network are also among those encouraging students to register.

Some professors who did not have class on Tuesday due to the Monday schedule were asked to e-mail their students the link to a website with information on how to register, Perry said.

"It has definitely been a group effort," said Abbyad.

Beyond the support from numerous groups around campus, students are being motivated to register for other reasons.

For students from Massachusetts, ballot questions like the call to repeal the state income tax and the issue of decriminalizing marijuana have increased student interest to register for this election, said Perry.

"There are definitely things that are grabbing students' attention," she said, because the issues affect higher public education and peoples lifestyle directly.

The groups hope today's last-minute efforts will help them reach their goals for student registration.

"When people are told there is a deadline they are much more responsive," said Perry.

After today's deadline, the New Voters Project will start another campaign urging students to get out and vote on Election Day.

Students who filled out registration cards on campus were asked to provide their name and phone number. Groups like the New Voters Project, UMass Democrats and MASSPIRG have said they will call students to remind them to vote and inform them of their polling location.

They will also follow up with students who are using absentee ballots to make sure the students received and submitted their ballot correctly, said Eihorn.

Students can also sign up for an e-mail or text message reminder to be sent on Election Day.

State voter registrations must be postmarked no later than 5 p.m. on October 15. Online registration is also available at www.studentvote.org.
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