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NDVotes outlines plans for year

| Wednesday, September 27, 2017

With the 2016 election a thing of the past, NDVotes will shift its focus to encouraging voter education and civic engagement amongst the University’s student body.

Coming off of a presidential election year, NDVotes is looking for new ways to keep students engaged in the political process, NDVotes co-chair and junior Kylie Ruscheinski said.

“Voter registration is what founded NDVotes, but at its core, it’s also about voter education,” she said.

Past iterations of the club existed during the 2008 and 2012 elections, Ruscheinski said, but weren’t active in the years in between. This time, the group will be sticking around. NDVotes will aim to keep students consistently engaged in the political world, as opposed to only during major elections, Ruscheinski said.

“Being an educated voter and an active citizen is not a cycle,” she said. “It doesn’t stop.”

This year, NDVotes will continue to focus on its mission of helping students become registered voters, Ruscheinski said. In 2016, from November through January, nearly 3,500 people signed up through the NDTurbovote portal, either to register to vote or to request an absentee ballot.

The group also ran a competition between dorms to register the highest percentage of voters and helped first-year students register to vote during Welcome Weekend. NDVotes will continue to frequently set up a table in the LaFortune Student Center in order to provide assistance with the voter registration process, Ruscheinski said.

In addition to voter registration, NDVotes seeks to encourage non-partisan political discussion, education and civic engagement. Ruscheinski said possible discussion topics for future events include foreign policy, nuclear policy, voter apathy and the role of religion in politics.

“This past election in particular sparked a new interest [in politics] in our age group,” she said. “ … A lot of key issues that affect 20-year-olds on a regular basis were overlooked.”

These topics could be a place where the group helps fill the gap, providing a forum for students to discuss and learn about the issues which impact their lives the most, senior and NDVotes co-chair Andrew Pott said.

“Another focus is getting more variety in speakers,” he said.

The majority of speakers at past NDVotes events have been from the department of political science. Bringing in professors and other faculty speakers from departments in areas such as business, engineering, science and law could attract “totally different audiences,” than the more politically-oriented speakers, Pott said.

Another plan NDVotes has for this year is to set up spaces in which students can gain experience having conversations about political topics, Pott said. These spaces would give students a stress-free, non-partisan environment in which they could practice engaging in political discourse.

“There are a lot of people that generally want to know more about politics, but don’t know where to start or how to talk about it,” he said.

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