Colleges Race To Register Students To Vote By Oct. 9by Joe Holloway-News Messenger
MARSHALL NEWS MESSENGER (8/28/12)- Eligible Texans who are not registered to vote must do so by Oct. 9 in order to cast their ballots in the Nov. 6 general election.
With that deadline fast approaching, area colleges and student organizations are doing their best to get the word out and get students registered.
"You’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t understand either that they’re able to vote, or how important of a privilege it is,” said Cody Smith, Vice-President of the Political Awareness Society at East Texas Baptist University.
The senior was one of four ETBU students who recently went to the Harrison County Elections Office to become certified to register voters and plan to do so on the school’s campus over the course of the next week.
"Voting is that fundamental right and privilege that every American citizen has,” said Smith. "We just want to make sure people understand it.”
Members of the PAS will be on hand in ETBU’s Ornelas Student Center starting at 10 a.m. today to register students to vote. The group will also be present during Monday and Wednesday chapel services at 10 a.m., as well as back in the student center at the same time next Friday as well.
Smith said the organization was also going to try to expand their presence beyond the currently scheduled times.
"I’m going to talk to the President and see if we can set up during cafeteria hours next week around 11 or 12 as well on Monday and Wednesday as well,” he said. "If all goes well, we can maybe do that on Friday too.”
Dr. Isreal Nandamudi, professor of history and political science ETBU, said the PAS registered more than 500 voters ahead of the 2008 elections.
"It was a very, very successful campaign for us,” he said.
Smith said that was a high standard to try to meet, but that he would be happy no matter how many people the group got registered.
"That’s a pretty large number,” he said. "We don’t really have a set amount of people we want to get registered to vote. We just want to give people the opportunity to be able to register to vote.
"Personally, I feel if we only get a couple people to vote I would consider it an accomplishment.”
ETBU isn’t the only school looking to get its students registered to vote.
Texas State Technical College is holding a voter registration drive on its campus at 11:30 a.m. on Monday as well.
TSTC Director of Marketing and Communications Baily Briggs said the school was hoping to register students and other members of the community who wanted to stop by.
"Anytime we do something that will benefit not only our students but the community at large, we always try to include the community,” she said. "We’ll have sandwiches and chips and stuff there so feel free to come eat too.”
She echoed Smith’s sentiment that many students are simply unfamiliar with the voting process.
"A lot of our students are intimidated by voting and they’ve never done it. They’ve never registered,” she said. "We’re trying to make it where there are no obstacles.”
Tammy Taylor, Director of Public Relations at Wiley College, said her school has made voter registration a priority at events throughout the school year.
"Our processes here are just a part of our normal routine,” she said. "We had tables set up at registration, at welcome week activities, on Constitution Day and, in the coming days, we’ll continue to have locations where students can come and learn about how they can register to vote and to make sure they are aware of the coming deadline.”
Taylor said many of Wiley’s student organizations have reported that 100 percent of their membership is already registered to vote.
"Our Toast Masters organization. Members of our senior class cabinet. Our SGA members, they’ve all reported their members are registered to vote,” she said. "They’re working with other student organizations because they want all our students to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming election.”
(Used by permissions www.marshallnewsmessenger.com)