Members of Get Out The Vote register students in the University Center Breezeway

How to vote in college

By Ashley A. Williams

How to vote in college

By Ashley A. Williams
Get Out The Vote, a nonpartisan initiative headed by the Division of Student Affairs and the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, encourages ’Canes at the University of Miami to register to vote.

For some, voting as a college student isn’t as easy as navigating Tinder. Luckily, Stefanie Suarez, a junior majoring in anthropology, is among the hardworking Get Out The Vote (GOTV) team on campus working to alleviate the stressors that come with registering to vote. Young voters, aged 18-29, have enough on their plates as is. This makes taking the time to register sound like a pain.

As just one of the 12.3 million college and university students under the age of 25 in the United States, Suarez says she’s committed to making a difference in voter turnout amongst young voters. Looking through a nonpartisan pair of lenses, Suarez says she was very disappointed in the overall voter turnout for the 2016 elections. This prompted her to take action. In her role as student assistant of social justice within the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, she is planning for different results this midterm election.

“The 2016 election was when I started getting invested and engaged to vote and getting others to vote as well,” Suarez said. “I knew that this was a way to make tangible change. I am looking forward to rallying others for National Voter Registration Day, which is September 25th. A bunch of organizations will take part in this including the UM College Democrats, UM College Republicans, and Women’s League of Voters.”

And on Friday, Sept. 28, another national push for voter registration will visit UM as "When We All Vote" will hold a rally at the Watsco Center hosted by former first lady Michelle Obama. Information and registration for this event can be found here

Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center, has trained over 65 students including Miami Law students to become a GOTV student ambassador. Now through the October 9 registration deadline, student ambassadors will be tabled at popular campus landmarks registering students, faculty and staff to vote.

Not without a few requirements though.

Registrants must be 18-years-old to vote, be a United States citizen, meet state residency requirements, meet the voter registration deadline, and must provide identification on voting day.  

Maxwell Wray, a junior neuroscience major, had similar feelings regarding the 2016 election. He recently began his role as a GOTV ambassador on campus.

“There’s so much at stake this election and we can’t let baby boomers determine our future,” Wray said. “I don’t care who you vote for, I will just have more respect for you if you just vote at all.”

From Oct. 22 through Nov. 4, free transportation will be provided from the Coral Gables campus to the nearest early voting location at the Coral Gables Branch Library. Shuttles will leave from Stanford Circle every 30 minutes, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. GOTV will table specifically to assist students in requesting an absentee ballot leading up to the election.

This particular election comes as Miami-Dade County has been under recent pressure to expand early voting to college campuses. Suarez believes the methods of voting should be made easier for her and her peers than other groups. Once Election Day rolls around, those who registered with a UM address are be able to either vote on-campus at the Watsco Center, or at a nearby polling station.

“It’s important to have voting on college campuses because [students’] lives exist solely on campus,” Suarez said. “College is a special circumstance where you have to make it available to the students. So many people at school are away from home, so the access isn’t the same as elderly people.”

During the 2016 election cycle, GOTV’s efforts resulted in registering more than 2,500 students, faculty and staff at the University to vote. This year, the goal is to reach 3,000 new voters. For the seventh year in a row, NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) has recognized UM as a national leader and named it one of only 14 Lead Advisory Institutions for its Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. UM is also hosting two fellows from the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP), another nonpartisan organization whose goal is to register people to vote and educate students on going to vote.

“These partnerships are great resources to have,” Wiemer said. “They help us to develop a plan and to help students gain electoral engagement experience.”

For the seventh year in a row, the University of Miami was designated a “Voter-Friendly Campus” by NASPA.

GOTV is a nonpartisan, student-led political organization that registers, educates, and mobilizes voters in the University of Miami community. GOTV promotes civic engagement and political efficacy. For more information about UM’s service and leadership, visit the Butler Center website.

GOTV tabling dates