Voter Outreach Group To Increase Efforts

This story was written by Emily Barton, Michigan Daily
Engineering senior Brian Hickner was minding his own business, walking through campus when a Voice Your Vote representative seemingly came out of nowhere and blocked his way.

"They got me on the Diag," he said.

Hicker is just one of many students who claims to have had a voter registration form shoved in front of him by the voter-registering group Voice Your Vote, an entirely student-run organization.

But this year, that might change.

LSA junior Jonathon Kendall, co-chair of Voice your Vote, said the group has been working with University administrators to gain more access to residence halls and other University buildings.

Kendall said he and his fellow co-chair LSA senior Hannah Fishman realized after registering students for the 2008 midterm election that they would need more support from the University. They met with University officials last semester to figure out how the University could help the voter registration efforts.

"I really hope they'll work with us more in the future," Fishman said.

The group is currently funded by the Michigan Student Assembly and outside donations. Fishman said she doesn't think that will change if the University supports Voice Your Vote.

"We still want to be able to run a grassroots campaign and do our own thing as well," she said.

Kendall and Fishman said they hope to train resident advisors to register students to vote in each of the resident halls. He said that would be a more direct, personal experience for freshmen than being flagged down in the Diag.

For upperclassmen, Kendall said, the group wants to compile student mailing lists and send them instructions on how to apply for voter registration.

Voice Your Vote has also asked the University to add voter registration drop boxes in every LSA building. Currently, campus has only one dropbox, located on the third floor of the Michigan Union.

Fishman said the group is in talks with administrators in Angell Hall and the libraries to install them there as well. Security concerns have held up the process.

She said the group is still working on ways to insure the boxes won't be stolen and students' personal information won't be threatened. Fishman said they also want the University's gateway website to provide students with information on how to register to vote.

Trelawny Boynton, an associate director in residence education, said she supports working with Voice Your Vote to help it gain more access to residence halls. Boynton said she plans to meet with Fishman and Kendall soon to work on their plans.

Jim Kosteva, director of the University's community relations in the Office of Government Relations, said he thinks that many of the groups ideas will be feasible.

He said the next step will be examine any security issues before coming up with a timeline for implementation.

Fishman said she and Kendall are hopeful that most of these changes will be made before the presidential election in November.

"We've really been working hard to try and make that happen," Fishman said.
© 2008 Michigan Daily via U-WIRE
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