by Sydney Beecher, Contributing Writer
Aiming to help students register to vote, UMF’s branch of the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) held a voter registration drive at the end of September. The drive was an astounding success, with 40 UMF students registering to vote over a span of two days.
This program was headed by senior Samantha Wood, CEEP Fellow and the voter drive event organizer, along with four volunteers. Together they led students through the process of filling out an official registration form. “It’s easy for on-campus students to register to vote because UMF sent a residence list to the town clerk’s office so students do not need to provide proof of residency,” Wood said. “For those who live off-campus, all we ask of them is to bring proof of residency such as a piece of mail or their driver’s license when they come to register.”
Creating a voter registration drive on campus helps to build a habit of civic engagement in students. Voters between the ages of 18 and 21 have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.
According to Political Science Professor James Melcher, this can cause the views of younger voters to be underrepresented. “Here in the 2nd Congressional District in Maine, voters have the chance to vote in some of the most hotly contested races in the nation,” said Melcher. “Maine’s 2nd District electoral vote, U.S. House race, and U.S. Senate race are all extraordinarily competitive and crucial votes.”
Ciera Miller, one of the volunteers at the drive, echoed this message and stressed the importance of voting. “I wanted to volunteer because it’s important that we vote in elections for who’s going to be given power in our town, state, or country… [and] I want to help others who were never taught the impact their vote has so they can be more aware of how important their voice is as a US citizen. They should know that their voice matters,” said Miller.
Another important aspect of the drive was to provide unbiased information to students who registered. CEEP is committed to being non-partisan and is considering creating a non-partisan club on campus in the future. “It’s important for students to get involved politically and having only political party affiliated clubs is going to scare students away,” said Wood. “We’re seeing a change in young people where they don’t want to affiliate with a political party; they just want someone to uphold their views.”
UMF’s branch of CEEP maintains a Twitter and Instagram account called ‘UMF Votes’ and a Facebook account called ‘UMF Students Vote.’ Here, they post information regarding voting information or campus events. They plan to participate in an upcoming virtual legislative candidate series on Monday, October 12th, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and the political party affiliated clubs on campus. The online forum will include candidates in District 17 such as Jan Collins and Russel Black.