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Looming 2020 election pushes ASU clubs to register students to vote

The National Voter Registration Day event aimed to promote civic engagement among students


ASU graduate student, Dana Carey, helps out-of-state students change their voter registration on ASU's Tempe campus on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona.

Despite the fact it is not an election year, student-run political parties and advocacy groups were still in full force Tuesday recruiting students to vote in honor of National Voter Registration Day on the Tempe campus.

The event, hosted by Undergraduate Student Government Tempe and NextGen Arizona, is part of a larger week-long campaign to encourage civic engagement among students. 

USGT Director of Civic Engagement Justin Heywood, a senior majoring in political science and civic and economic thought and leadership, said the overall goal of the event is to register students to vote and introduce students to various campus groups.

"This year, we wanted to focus, since it's not an actual election cycle, on … more broadly how students can get engaged in their community, outside of just simply voting," Heywood said. "We do have tables for students to register, but there are also many other ways that students can get civically engaged."

Gina Roberts, the director of voter education for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the agency comes to ASU with the specific goal of encouraging new voters to be civically involved. 

"Our goal is to reach the students here on campus, 18 to 24 year olds, and get them registered," Roberts said. "We want to see their registration and their turnout rates increase. They're historically one of our lowest voting demographics."

David Howman, president of College Libertarians and a graduate student in justice studies, said that although there isn't a presidential election this year, the build-up surrounding the 2020 election has kept people engaged. 

"It's a little bit harder to get people motivated⁠ — to really care about civic engagement when it's not an election year," Howman said. "I think we're kind of helped out a bit by how much focus there already is; especially with the Democratic primary, people are already thinking about 2020."

Even without a presidential election, global politics freshman and ASU College Republicans Communications Director Joseph Pitts said that there are local elections that students should participate in. 

The National Voter Registration Day event also gives the clubs on campus a chance to get to know each other, and come together with the common goal of encouraging voter registration among college students.

"It's an opportunity to see other political clubs on campus, even ones that we might not agree with," Pitts said. "It's also good to kind of get out the word about getting young people registered to vote."

Mariana Pena, president of the Young Democrats at ASU and a senior majoring in political science, said that without a major election, the group can focus on its long term goals such as increasing its voter base. 

"For us now, it's a lot about capacity building, making sure people are engaged even in an off election year and looking forward to the presidential (election) because that's gonna be such a huge year for us," Pena said. "We're really working on getting students engaged now, so when the presidential comes everyone's ready."

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