ASU coaches and players encourage student-athletes to register to vote

Olivia Miller began a student-athlete voter registration initiative

ASU coaches and players encouraged the student-athlete population to register to vote ahead of Tuesday's National Voter Registration Day and Arizona's voter registration deadline Oct. 5, including beginning a voting initiative among student-athletes.

ASU football head coach Herm Edwards, softball junior outfielder Olivia Miller and track and field senior sprinter Cortney Jones are three individuals working to further promote student-athletes to register to vote.

Herm Edwards

Edwards encouraged his players to register to vote by bringing voting registration to his team in early September. He did so to make opportunities available to his team that he was not given as a freshman student-athlete at Cal, something he was puzzled with after his time there. 

Edwards believes it is important to bring these opportunities to his players. Instead of influencing them toward a candidate, he tells his players to do their own research and come up with their own opinions.

“They can register, or they can not register, but at least you make it easy for them to make a decision,” Edwards said. “I think before you decide to vote, I always tell players, ‘Don’t read the reader’s digest version. Don’t get your information off the phone. Go research. Get the facts so you know about the people you’d like to vote for.’”

Edwards compared the representative leadership of mayors, governors and council members to head coaching, saying people in both positions "must ring with the voices of the people that they serve," and he wants his players to see those qualities in elected officials.

“People matter. All these representatives, they work for you last time I checked. That’s their job description,” Edwards said. “That’s what I do as a head coach. I listen to the players. I serve them. I listen to their voices. That’s important.”

Olivia Miller

While Edwards’ involvement began recently, Miller started ASU's voting initiative for student-athletes back in May. 

She said that the heightened political climate of an election year and the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer made her wonder what she could do to help.

"I had all this guilt that was weighing on me because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough,” Miller said. “(My interest in voting) is something that I’ve known for a couple years now, so I started working with ASU and doing this voting initiative.”

Miller said ASU was on board with the idea from the beginning. However, she said, her fellow student-athletes have been less receptive to her initiative than she predicted.

“Specifically, my own teammates; I don’t have as much of a reach as you might think," Miller said. "That’s been one of my biggest struggles through this whole experience, that I haven’t had the support from them that I would want. It offends me a little bit.”

Miller said the initial lack of interest from student-athletes won't slow her down. She has identified a specific point she intends to address with other student-athletes: what makes people her age care to vote.

"You have to go for the things they care about and pull at their heartstrings a little bit,” Miller said. “I don’t want to fearmonger. I don’t want to guilt anyone into doing this, but I want to lay it out in front of them like, if you care about this, here’s a reason you can vote.”

Despite Miller only holding this initiative for student-athletes, she believes it is extremely important for all people her age to understand the importance of voting.

“I think it’s important that people my age, aside from the athletes, realize we have a voice for a reason,” Miller said. “We live in a country where you have the right to a democracy, and that’s a beautiful thing. There’s a lot of places where you don’t get to vote, you don’t have a say in the government and so I think, for me, it’s important because I want people to realize, if they want to see change, this is a way they can do it.”

Cortney Jones 

Although Jones is quick to give credit to Miller for starting ASU’s student-athlete voter initiative, she is also a driving force for change.

Jones is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council executive board, a member of Sun Devils United and she is attempting to start up the Black Student-Athlete Association.

Jones said because she is “one of the only people of color on the SAAC executive board,” she felt it was her responsibility to give student-athletes of color a safe space to speak. Jones said she helped lead “a town hall for all staff and student-athletes to have a voice and to speak about what’s happening in the country today.”

One of the main talking points of the town hall was voting. Jones said most student-athletes believe they "don’t have a lot of autonomy to themselves," but says they are able to make more of an impact now than ever before.

“Especially for me, before I transferred (to ASU), I would just play my role as a student-athlete," Jones said. "I went to class, I went to practice, I scored at nationals, but I never really felt like I was making an impact and I feel like now student-athletes are realizing that they can use the position that they’re in to make an impact and make a change.”

Similar to Miller's account, Jones said there are still plenty of student-athletes who brush off registering to vote. Jones said if a student-athlete were to tell her that their vote won't make a difference, she would reassure that student that it was not the case.

“My biggest thing is just to trust me, it matters because your vote could be the one that gets someone voted out of office or into office,” Jones said. “I don’t think people really understand the weight that it holds.”


Reach the reporter at cfahrend@asu.edu and follow @chris_drop_ on Twitter.

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