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ND Votes holds Welcome Weekend voter registration drive

| Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When freshman Kyle Hyland walked past the ND Votes table on the second floor of Coleman-Morse on Monday, junior Andrew Pott and sophomore Thomas Krill waved him down, asking if he had registered to vote.

A student registers to vote in the Coleman-Morse Center as part of ND Votes’  Welcome Weekend  registration drive. Volunteers registered first-year and transfer students to vote in the 2016 election.Rachel O'Grady

A student registers to vote in the Coleman-Morse Center as part of ND Votes’ Welcome Weekend
registration drive. Volunteers registered first-year and transfer students to vote in the 2016 election.

Hyland had. Had he requested an absentee ballot? He had not. Would he like to? Sure. Krill walked him through the necessary steps on an iPad before sending him on his way.

Hyland was one of more than 200 students the ND Votes student task force helped register to vote or request an absentee ballot at its Welcome Weekend drive. The organization, an initiative by the Center for Social Concerns and the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy whose task force partners with more than a dozen student clubs, set up tables near several events over the weekend, targeting first-years and transfer students.

“It seems daunting to a lot of students, but if you think about it, it’s really not that much time to do a very important duty,” Sarah Tomas Morgan, one of the chairs of the task force, said.

During the spring semester, the University began a partnership with TurboVote, an online registration and ballot-request service. ND Votes used TurboVote this weekend to register students in their home states, have prepaid ballot-request envelopes sent to them and sign them up for election-related notifications.

The goal is to simplify an often-confusing process, varying by state and becoming more complicated with the need for absentee ballots.

“They [TurboVote] basically do literally everything possible to make it as easy as possible to vote, so you have no excuse,” sophomore Abby Ferguson, an ND Votes dorm liaison who was at a registration table in Coleman-Morse, said. 

Many of the registrations and requests happened in the Hesburgh Library “fishbowl,” where an ND Votes table was set up next to ID card production.

Tomas Morgan said the organization found an ally in first-years’ parents.

“The parents were really good about saying, ‘Oh, this is something that’s really important, and you should really get in the habit of voting while you’re in college,’ which is huge, because for many people it’s their first time voting and definitely the first time voting in a presidential election,” she said.

The group also set up near freshman advising meetings in Coleman-Morse and at the Center for Social Concerns annual welcome-back picnic Monday night, drawing more than just first years. Sophomore Megan Reilly, like Hyland and several others, happened to see the table at the picnic and requested her Illinois absentee ballot.

“This is perfect,” she said. “I needed to do this.”

Tomas Morgan said ND Votes will sponsor or help with several events this semester, including discussions, a debate watch and the 2016 Notre Dame Forum, as well as continue to help students register to vote. She said it all harkens back to the organization’s goal of encouraging civic engagement, inspired by a 2016 document on faithful citizenship by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Participation in political and civic life is a moral obligation, and that’s really something that we try to emphasize and that we believe,” Tomas Morgan said, “because if you’re part in a society, it’s important to be invested and most of all aware of what’s going on, whether that means consciously abstaining from voting or educating yourself on the candidates and voting for a candidate that you feel really good about supporting.”

So far, she said, students appeared eager to vote and recognized its importance.

“They realize that it’s an important thing,” Tomas Morgan said. “You do have to go out of your way to get registered and get your absentee ballots, and it’s a tricky system because every state is different, so we wanted to streamline that as much as possible to get students who were really interested to own their citizenship a little more.”

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About Emily McConville

Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

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