UofSC students, faculty and staff were encouraged to register to vote during National Voter Registration Day. The university’s Civic Learning Education and Action Team is encouraging people on campus to use their voices in upcoming elections.
By Kenna Coe, Miah Nowicki and Ashley Dale Henslee
September 24 is National Voter Registration Day, a national holiday that encourages citizens to register to vote and check their registration status. Last year across the United States, over 800,000 people registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day.
On Tuesday, organizations at the University of South Carolina reached out to young people to contribute to that turnout.
Carly Zerr, a leadership coach at the Leadership and Service Center, promotes civil engagement at the university. She is running a voter registration drive on campus with help from the Richland County Elections Commission and student representatives from the Civic Leadership, Education and Action Team, known as CLEAT.
She encourages potential voters to register at her table using an online registration tool, TurboVote, or by filling out a mail-in application. Zerr said she would rather students ask questions than feel intimidated so they can better participate in civic processes.
“Voting is not an intuitive process at all, so we want students to feel comfortable asking us questions, so that they get the information they need,” said Zerr.
The organization wants to help students like Zita Porter who haven’t registered to vote yet.
Porter moved from Texas to Florida and said she is still trying to figure out how and where to register. She said she thinks the process could be improved through more awareness campaigns.
“I think they try to make it as clear as possible, but I think it can be confusing,” said Porter.
While not knowing how to register is one of the most common reasons people may not vote, other reasons include missing the registration deadline or failing to update their registration details.
People can sign up to vote on National Voter Registration Day at registration drives or at any time online, by mail or in person at a local election office. Those who are already registered can check and update their registration status online.
In order to vote, South Carolina law requires citizens to register to vote at least 30 days prior to an election.
Cale Carter, voting outreach coordinator for Richland County Elections Commission, said it is important for voters to update their information and locate designated polling places before every election.
“If you don’t find out beforehand, that’s where you end up having to scramble the day of,” Carter said.
As election season approaches, on-campus student organizations like CLEAT are encouraging people to take advantage of the services offered on National Voter Registration Day.
Since there is no length of residency requirement in South Carolina, even out-of-state students can register to vote in-state as long as they bring a valid photo ID when they register.
Political science student and registered voter Hailey Lingle said she views voting as everyone’s civic duty, not just her own.
“I think it’s something you should do when you’re young and make it part of your life as you get older,” Lingle said. “Young people have always been a very mobilizing group of people in this country’s history for change.”
Cale Carter, voting outreach coordinator for Richland County Elections Commission, spent Tuesday informing people about the voting registration process.
People can also register to vote online, by email, or in person at a local elections office.
Absentee ballot requests are available for voters who are unwilling or unable to attend their designated polling stations on Election Day.