NDVotes, League of Women Voters aim to increase voter turnout with registration training
Grace McDermott | Wednesday, March 21, 2018
To counter the national, steady decrease in voter turnout throughout the United States, NDVotes — a campaign led by the Center for Social Concerns — and the South Bend chapter of the League of Women Voters tried to help students learn how to register to vote Tuesday afternoon in Geddes Hall as part of the Pizza, Pop and Politics lecture series.
A study done by PBS showed that in the 2014 midterm elections, Indiana had the worst voter turnout of any state, with only twenty-eight percent of the eligible voting population casting ballots. Junior Prathm Juneja, who led part of the discussion and works with NDVotes to participate in door-to-door canvassing throughout South Bend to encourage voter registration, said he is passionate about raising South Bend’s voter turnout numbers.
“Voting rights and voter turnout are the closest things we have to fundamental democracy rights,” Juneja said. “They govern all aspects of politics, and that’s what’s going to govern the rest of people’s lives. I think the passion comes from this being the best way to give power to the people on issues that affect everyone.”
Juneja, along with sophomore Steven Higgins, spoke to a room of around 30 students about the recent purge of Indiana voters from the Secretary of State’s office.
“Eleven thousand voters were purged in South Bend last year, and the population is only about 101,000,” Higgins said.
Purged voters are given minimal notice through mail, and the purge disproportionately affected communities of color in South Bend, Higgins said.
Two members of the League of Women Voters, Dianna Schmitz and co-director of the League’s voter registration program Nancy Johnson, encouraged students to get involved in registering voters in the community. According to the League of Women Voters website, the non-partisan organization was founded in the 1920s and has led campaigns for equal access to education and employment, as well as leading efforts toward voters’ education programs.
The South Bend chapter hosts events throughout the year to push for voter registration and spread accurate information to the local community about their voting rights, Johnson said. She said their voter registration program began in 2011 with a mission of expanding voter equality and as of this week they have registered over five thousand voters. According to the state of Indiana’s website, the deadline for Indiana midterm elections voter registration is April 9, and students who live in other states can file for absentee ballots.
“We encounter a lot of urban myths and incorrect information that people pass to each other,” Johnson said. “For example, in Indiana, if you are currently not incarcerated and living in your new address for at least a month, you can register to vote and vote for the rest of your life. People are listening to these wrong urban legends. That is one of our barriers to voting. We also find that people wondering about their citizenship status, that is another barrier.”