Updated: Oct 7
PROVIDENCE, R.I., -- On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, student volunteers and faculty set up voter registration booths in parking lot A as well as in front of the Ducey Media Center. In addition to the registration drive, the Student Union also held a virtual discussion with the RI Director of Elections, Rob Rock on Tuesday. Rock answered a variety of questions about the voting and registration process.
The drive, which was a collaborative effort from Student Community Government, the Political Science Club, the office of Student Life and Residential Life and Housing, was organized by Student Union Director, Kristen Salemi and Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students, Dr. Tamika Wordlow-Williams. Salemi said, “We reached out to the communications department, political science department, housing, to different campus departments. Also, different agencies and the Secretary of State Office and we put together this table.”
At each booth, volunteers were armed with hand sanitizer and flyers providing students with all the necessary information they could need about the registration and voting process. Stephen Masi, who is a Graduate student for Student Leadership and Community service and studying psychology at RIC was one of the volunteers.
Masi stated that he thinks it is important to register people to vote because he thinks it is important to educate college students on the significance of participating in the democratic process. “Everyone living on campus during these COVID times, they might not understand [how important voting is] or they might have just turned 18,” Masi said. “Now they have the right to vote and the ability to vote, it’s important for us to get out there and give them the option and register them.”
Michael Smith, who serves as the President of RIC’s Alumni Association, was also helping to register students.“In my first semester here as a student in the fall of 1974, I had just turned 18. The first person I ever voted for was myself.” Smith said, “I was running for State Representative. Being involved in public service in any capacity is so important. That’s what makes our country run. All the volunteers, getting out there and helping, using whatever talents that you have is just so crucial.”
President of the Political Science Club, Mackenzie Raimond told the Anchor, “As a Political Science member I definitely think it is really important for people to get out there and register to vote, especially for college students it is very important.” Raimond asserted, “It is very important to start to educate about making your vote and fulfilling your civic duty to this country. We’re sitting here today to really educate people about how to vote and how to make an educated vote by registering and getting ready.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 2020 will mark the first election in which Millennials and Generation Z have the largest share of eligible voters. Historically, college students have had a low voter turnout rate. However, from 2014 to 2018 the amount of college-aged voters who cast their ballots doubled. Only 19% of college-aged voters turned out in 2014, whereas during the 2018 midterms 40% voted.
Raimond says that voting in 2020 has never been easier especially for college students. “There are three ways, you can request a mail ballot and send it in by the middle of October. There is early voting which is two weeks before the election, and there is in person.” Raimond said that those wishing to vote in person on election day can find their polling place online.
Smith also mentioned the importance of voting, urging young people especially to cast their ballots. Smith said “Especially for young people, you are going to be living in this world a long time, you need to make decisions about what kind of world you want to live in.”
The deadline to register to vote in Rhode Island was October 4th. Voters can request an absentee ballot up until October 13th and early in-person voting takes place from October 14th to November 2nd.
Rhode Island is one of 21 states plus the District of Columbia that allows voter-registration on election day. Those who missed the deadline for registration may register on election day at the polling place assigned to them by their local board of canvassers. Those who register on election day can only vote for Presidential and Vice Presidential races, not federal or state elections.
The 2020 presidential election is on November 3.