As time to register to vote before Novembers dwindles, a new Northwestern student group has handed out more than 600 registration forms and absentee ballots since students came back to campus, according to a chair of the group.
The non-partisan NU Decides: 2008 has been greeting students with voting papers at the Rock and the ASG Activities Fair in the past weeks, and will man its last registration table on Monday as state registration deadlines approach. Although the numbers are not yet official, the group estimates registering more than 300 students within the first two days of class alone.
“The basic idea is that it doesn’t matter what your beliefs are; the point is that we want you to be an informed voter and actually go to the polls,” said Allison Morales, the voter registration chair of NU Decides. “It doesn’t matter which candidate, as long as you put in your voice.”
Last Spring Quarter, Morales helped start a group called NU Voter Outreach with Student Affairs. During the summer, NU Voter Outreach met members of Associated Student Government’s group called NU Engage, which was also planning to register voters on campus this fall.
“We decided it was better to merge and form one group and share the manpower to accomplish the same goals,” Morales said. “We merged and became NU Decides in August.”
After voter registration ends, the NU Decides team will organize issue-themed weeks for the four weeks leading up to Nov. 4. Each week there will be information sessions, discussion groups and even speakers on topics such as the environment, economics, domestic social issues and foreign policy. The organization is also planning a “Rock the Vote” rally, as well as a results-watching party on Election Day.
McCormick freshman Brooke Stanislawski likes having the opportunity to join a non-partisan organization.
“I don’t know for myself which [party] I would rather be with and also it doesn’t matter to me who anyone is going to vote for—I just really want everyone to vote,” she said. “Now that we’re old enough to vote, we have the opportunity and I want everyone who can to take advantage of it.”
Morales said that one of the group’s goals is to take the work out of registering.
“We’re letting people know that we have out-of-state registration forms and we have absentee forms for them,” Morales said. “They don’t have to do anything but fill out the forms and provide an ID. We will look up the appropriate address, stick it in an envelope with a stamp and mail it for them.”
Weinberg freshman Deidre Lipsicas from Maryland had already registered to vote, but got her absentee ballot request form from the NU Decides booth at the ASG Activities Fair. Lipsicas felt that though the booth was a bit disorganized, the overall registration drive is a good idea.
“The corner of the activities fair…was a giant mass of arms in the air shouting out the names of states,” she said. “But it was good that [voter registration] was available and I didn’t have to do it myself.”
Once students register or request absentee ballots, it’s a separate task to actually get them to vote. Volunteer chair Kim Castle explained that studies show that only 80 percent of people who register end up voting. She plans to organize a group of volunteers specifically dedicated to getting students to cast their ballots on Nov. 4.
Alex Campbell contributed to this report.