by KATE SELTZER
Tuesday, Sept. 25 was National Voter Registration Day. UMW celebrated with an event organized by the new club UMW Votes.
The nonpartisan event on Ball Circle featured booths from NextGen, Feminist Majority Foundation, UMW Votes, Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Young Democrats and several local political candidates.
Stephanie Turcios, a junior political science major and a voting ambassador for UMW Votes, helped run the event.
“We are really focused on registering people, making sure they know where their voting polls are, who the candidates are and just ensuring everyone is educated on all things voting,” she said.
UMW Votes hopes to make National Voter Registration Day an annual event on campus.
“It’s so important, because a lot of people don’t know this, but there’s an election [in Virginia] every year,” said sophomore Amber Brown, one of the event organizers. “People are just like ‘oh, I don’t really want to care about that, I’ll just leave that to the adults.’ But then they don’t realize that this is our future, and we should take action now. Use your voice.”
NextGen’s booth offered students the opportunity to spin to win prizes in exchange for pledging to vote on November 5.
“We’re out here working with NextGen, doing non-partisan voter registration on campus, just trying to register college students to vote here,” said AJ Robinson, a senior communication and digital studies major. “A lot of students who are registered at home, a lot of times don’t really go back home to vote. We’re trying to get them to register here so that they can just vote locally.”
“We also want to help people pledge to vote so they remember to go out to the polls and know the issues they care about,” added freshman Abby Zurflew.
“Our generation doesn’t really vote as much as we should… I really push our college students to vote so that we can go out and try to make a change,” Robinson said.
Carmen Linero Lopez, the west coast campus organizer for Feminist Majority Foundation, helped run the organization’s table. She’d travelled from Los Angeles to talk to students about the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment.
“We believe Virginia could be the 30th state [to ratify the ERA], and it’s just about swinging the state legislature,” she said. “Last year, the Senate passed it and the House [of Delegates] did not, so we think that by swinging the House we can pass it.”
Linero Lopez referenced state elections in years past that came down to less than 80 votes.
“We believe that the margin could be one college, even one dorm floor, for a lot of these races, so we’re just trying to get out the student vote so we can ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia,” she said.
Feminist Majority Foundation’s table featured feminist trivia, with ranging from “who, in 2018, became the first female artist with 100 career visits to the billboard hot 100?” – Nicki Minaj – to “which was the first state to give women the right to vote?” – Wyoming, in 1920.
“We’re about to celebrate the centennial,” Linero Lopez said. “It would be really f—ing amazing if we could also at the same time ratify the ERA into the constitution.”
Planned Parenthood Generation Action’s table asked students to match quotes about abortion to the local candidate who said them.
“We’re just out here to support national voter registration day and educate people about different candidates’ views on abortion,” said junior Claire Ross, an anthropology and historic preservation major. “I would say [the event is] important because who’s in office at the time is really a major factor in the health of Planned Parenthood as the biggest provider of reproductive healthcare. It really matters whether or not they have funding… The more people who vote, especially young people, the better for us and for everyone else who needs Planned Parenthood.”
Also present at the event were representatives, or in some cases the candidate themselves, from the Joshua Cole, Qasim Rashid, Jess Foster, Mark Cole and Amy Laufer campaigns.
Hannah Fishman, field director for Foster’s campaign, said she loves National Voter Registration Day.
“We had a really good day talking to lots of voters and lots of students. People seem really excited and we’re really excited about getting rid of the current representation,” she said. “It’s hard to get people excited about registering to vote and about voting in general, unfortunately. So when we have some sort of day commemorating it and celebrating it, it’s a great opportunity to bring awareness to it.”
Republican incumbent Mark Cole is running against Jess Foster for Delegate in the 88th District. A representative from his campaign present at the event declined to be interviewed.