SENIOR MONICA VIDAURRI HOSTED A DISCUSSION ABOUT STUDENT VOTING AT THE NEWSEUM
By Michael Eberhart, News Editor
The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge recently recognized Mason with a Silver Campus Seal of Achievement for reaching over 60 percent participation by student voters in last year’s presidential election.
Mason senior Monica Vidaurri spoke alongside two former U.S. secretaries of education at the organization’s awards ceremony. The event was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Vidaurri, who studies astrobiology as well as government and international politics at Mason, was motivated to get involved by the apathy towards voting she saw among other students.
“It was just very frustrating going through school and seeing other people my age – some of my best friends – just not care at all, especially about policies and people that were speaking on these policies that would directly affect them,” said Vidaurri.
According to Vidaurri, colleges like Mason have an important role to play in changing that disinterest into higher voter turnout.
“When we’re talking about voter engagement and actually getting out to vote, education is probably one of the biggest factors that’s going to go into [participation],” she said. “If you’re educated, you’re more likely to vote.”
Catherine Fish, associate director at ALL IN, recommended several policies and programs that universities could implement to increase student voting.
“One of the big ones is institutionalizing voter registration in current processes,” said Fish, “making it really easy when students get their student ID to also give them access to register to vote, or integrating it into their IT using programs such as TurboVote. When students register for classes they can also access voter registration information.”
“In terms of voter education, we encourage professors and extracurricular administrators to have conversations about politics, civics, volunteering, service learning and all of those things that create active and engaged citizens.”
“On the voter turnout side of things, we encourage campuses to help provide transportation access to the polls and to try and get polling places on their campuses,” she added. “A lot of campuses don’t even have one near them, so that’s already a big advantage and a leg up.”
Mason’s on-campus polling place is in Merten Hall. The next opportunity for students to vote will be the election for Virginia’s next governor on Nov. 7.
Photo by Michael Eberhart