The Rutgers athletics department recently established its Registered Knight program, which is designed to educate student athletes on where, when and how to vote.
Currently, the University has enrolled a total of 597 athletes from 31 different states, including New Jersey. The large influx of students from different states, all of which that have different voting systems, can lead to confusion, said Kyle Grady, a Rutgers College junior. Grady, a member of the University track team, was the main student architect of the program.
"One of the biggest problems is that [the Athletic Department] recruits from all over the country," Grady said. "One thing we wanted to do was to make sure that all the voting information was present, and have absentee ballot information."
Many student athletes from out of state have no other choice than to use absentee ballots, he said. The system for submission and voter registration, though, is often times very different.
"Every state is different, with state specific rules," he said. "In New Jersey, they have a county system where an absentee ballot is mailed to you. In some states, you can get ballots online and submit them yourself."
The program is currently overseen through the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. The ultimate goal of the SAAC is to register as many athletes as possible. Grady said Athletic Director Robert E. Mulcahy approached him about the initiative.
"It actually was Mr. Mulcahy's idea, he brought it to me and tried to be involved with it on whatever level he could," Grady said.
The new program, which offers information through the SAAC and at the Hale Center, is useful because athletes have to juggle very busy schedules, which means small things like voting could easily become afterthoughts, Grady said. The idea was to make the process as accessible and easy as possible, he said.
Kate Hickey, senior associate athletic director of student services, said a different form of the program was instituted in 2004, the year of the last presidential election.
"[Student voter registration] is always very important in such years," she said.
The mailing of ballots and other services were financed through a grant called the Student Athlete Opportunity Fund, that helps with programs that support important student programming, she said.
In a statement, Mulcahy lauded the program, stressing its importance in a democratic system.
"Participating in the electoral process is as much a privilege as it is a right," Mulcahy said. "This year's election has great significance for the future of the United States and since our student-athletes are among the future leaders of this country, it is very important that they have a say in its direction."