Equipped with Zoom rooms, Instagram, Facebook, tweets, and texts, the New Voters Project organized by the Florida Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Students is a non-partisan effort to encourage the socially distanced community of FAU to be civically engaged and active.
Sophie Kelly, the New Voters Project Organizer, and FAU student interns Ashleigh Dixon, Andrea Goytia, and Brittany Walsh of Florida PIRG Students set out for FAU with one goal in mind: to register 100 students by the voter registration deadline, Monday, Oct. 5.
“This is the first time we’ve launched it virtually so it looks completely different than it usually does. Usually, we’re physically on college campuses for one thing, and we had like paper voter registrations, but we pretty much had to adapt the model this year, and re-adjust our goals to see what we could actually do completely remotely,” Kelly said. “The whole point of this project is to increase youth voter turnout. Once we increase the turnout of the largest and most influential electorate we have in this country, then that body of people can actually start shaping the future of this country.”
Due to COVID-19, the Florida PIRG Student interns have altered their on-campus outreach to virtual peer-to-peer outreach, classroom announcements, and social media callouts. The organization promotes its website studentvote.org as a voter registration tool to increase student visibility and civic involvement for this election as the website acts as a crucial step in the New Voters Project.
“I am a DACA recipient so I can’t vote, and when I heard about this opportunity, it was through my sociology professor [who] made a class announcement and PIRG announced that they were looking for interns to help with voting,” Dixon said. “My family is very politically active, like the news is on all the time, and voting is really important to us, even though I cannot personally vote.”
In the 2018 midterm elections, Florida PIRG Students helped over 10,000 students register to vote across 12 college and university campuses in the state. Outside of civic engagement, the organization influenced Eckerd College in St. Pete to pass the Break Free From Plastic Campus Pledge – making it the first college in the U.S. to enact the sustainability pledge last November.
Since 1978, the New Voters Project has helped register over 2 million new voters. This fall semester at FAU, the PIRG Students initiative aims to seek to develop a lifelong habit in young people of being civically engaged and active.
“I want to help others have their voices heard in whatever aspect they want. Whatever bothers them, whatever they’re worried about, whatever they want to see a change in, and [I] just want to encourage them to go out and vote and just be active in the political realm,” Walsh said.
When asked about why voting is important to them, Dixon explained, “I just think that it’s everyone’s right and everyone should exercise the rights that they have with the little freedoms that they have. Whatever you believe in, whoever you’re voting for, you should exercise the right that you have.”
This fall semester, the Florida PIRG Students are organizing at 16 colleges and universities across the state to help over 10,000 students register to vote, and make over 50,000 get out the vote reminders leading up to Nov. 3rd, which is Election Day. The non-partisan organization wants not only to register students to vote but to increase voter turnout and participation among college students as safe as possible due to COVID-19.
The Florida PIRG Student interns felt it was important for the students of FAU to be proactive in this election by exercising their right to vote and influence change in the political system.
“Personally, I cannot vote. I’m not a citizen yet, but I like to encourage other students to get registered to vote and make their voices heard. Voting, in general, is like a way that we, as students, can make our voices heard,” said Goytia. “It encourages more active involvement in our political system and that will ultimately benefit our democracy. Showing up on election day or just mailing in your ballots, people can choose the candidate who is going to make the changes that they feel are necessary and a candidate who values align with their own.”
Florida Voting Dates to Remember:
Election Day Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Registration Closes Monday, October 5, 2020
Early Voting Begins Monday, October 19, 2020
Early Voting Ends Sunday, November 1, 2020
Darlene Antoine is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email her at [email protected]