Democracy in action on day one

Democracy in action on day one

Incoming first-year students, Shadae Nicholas (left) and Jacqueline Burke (right), visit the Get Out the Vote booth on the Lakeside Patio to register as Florida voters on Wednesday afternoon.

By Mike Piacentino

Incoming first-year students, Shadae Nicholas (left) and Jacqueline Burke (right), visit the Get Out the Vote booth on the Lakeside Patio to register as Florida voters on Wednesday afternoon.

Democracy in action on day one

By Mike Piacentino
UM’s Get Out the Vote student ambassadors were on-site during 'Cane Kickoff to register new students to vote in Florida

Students new to the University of Miami have no shortage of items to complete during their first few days on campus. But registering to vote as a Florida resident may not be on their list. That is why UM’s student-led Get Out the Vote (GOTV) initiative set up tables on the Lakeside Patio to register students during the ’Cane Kickoff orientation program.

“The Division of Student Affairs and the Butler Center for Service and Leadership are committed to engaging our students in the democratic process,” said Andrew Wiemer, the center’s director and advisor to GOTV. “Setting up our registration drive during the ’Cane Kickoff orientation program embodies this commitment and sends that message to our newest students and their families.”

Over the course of three days, GOTV registered more than 300 new students to vote, and these students appreciated how convenient it was to register at the tables located in the heart of ’Cane Kickoff activities.

“It was quick, easy and convenient,” said Jacqueline Burke, a first-year student studying biochemistry and nutrition. “I am originally from Pennsylvania and just turned 18, so I want to be sure I am registered to vote here.”

Students also recognized the importance that their vote has on the decisions that are made in their new South Florida community.

Burke’s roommate and fellow first-year student Shadae Nicholas said, “Since decisions that are made by politicians affect all of us in many ways, don’t think your voice doesn’t matter because it does.”

Gabe Frohlich, a sophomore transfer student studying engineering added, “I feel like I am obligated to vote. I can’t throw away the opportunity to have my perspective heard, especially in my new community.”

GOTV is a non-partisan group led by 6 undergraduate students. In addition to its executive board, a growing number of more than a dozen students, faculty and staff serve as Voter Registration Ambassadors. These ambassadors work with the GOTV student executive board to help manage voter registration drives.

“Many people – especially students – don’t realize the privilege they have as citizens,” said Albany Muria, a junior studying public administration and president of GOTV. “By voting, not only are you influencing decisions that impact your life but also the lives of others.”

Miami-Dade County’s Board of Elections joined GOTV throughout the past few days to inform students about their voting rights and the election process.

“It is important that students know their rights,” Wiemer said. “They often don’t realize they are now eligible to vote in Florida, so we want to be out here to start educating and energizing them about getting engaged in our democracy and community.”

In addition to registering members of the campus community to vote, GOTV also educates voters about relevant issues and candidates running for office. Throughout the year, GOTV partners with many UM departments and student organizations as well as community organizations to host educational seminars, debates, and other campus programs aimed at educating the campus community about the democratic process.

“Registering to vote is only the first step, so it is important to register as early as possible,” Muria added. “Now that students are registered, they can focus on educating themselves about issues and candidates.”

It is because of these efforts and others that the University of Miami has been recognized by numerous national organizations for its democratic engagement efforts, most notably being named as a “Voter Friendly Campus” since 2016.

Members of the UM community who would like to volunteer as a Voter Registration Ambassador can attend one of the upcoming in-person training sessions taking place at the end of August. More information about the ambassador program and other GOTV efforts is available at miami.edu/vote or by emailing vote@miami.edu.