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Senate discusses voter registration, political engagement

| Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Notre Dame’s student senate spent the majority of its weekly meeting discussing voter registration and ways to engage the Notre Dame student body politically.

ND Votes co-chair and sophomore Michael Marotta spoke about the ways the organization is trying to engage campus ahead of November’s midterm elections.

“ND Votes is a nonpartisan voter registration, voter participation and voter education task force,” Marotta said. “Our goal, especially with the midterms coming up, is to make the biggest push we can to make sure as many students are registered, they’re engaged, they’re active, so that they can take part in the elections because many political scientists are saying these midterms are going to be the most important midterms in our nation’s history.”

Marotta brought up some of the events ND Votes sponsors, including their monthly signature event, Pizza, Pop and Politics, where a professor or expert will speak on a current political topic. Furthermore, Marotta said ND Votes works in the South Bend community to foster a sense of civic duty and help people register to vote. He also mentioned a contest held between the dorms to increase voter registration.

“Just in this last week, we have registered over 1,100 new people [to vote],” Marotta said.

Marotta noted Sept. 25 is the last day to register to vote in most states and urged senators to make their constituents aware of this information and help them register to vote. The senators were also encouraged to brainstorm ideas to help make students at Notre Dame more politically active.

Senator Caila Lindsey, a junior representing Lyons Hall, suggested communication between ND Votes and the various state clubs at the University, such as Michigan Club, of which Lindsey serves as president.

“I know that big things that happen within your state, talking about those with students, saying things like ‘Do you want a statement about the water in Flint?’ That’s what’s getting a lot of younger people to get out and vote in Michigan, at least,” Lindsey said.

Senator Erin Hiestand, a sophomore representing Ryan Hall, suggested providing information on each individual candidate to prevent down-the-ballot party voting.

“I know a lot of people vote based on the party that appears on the ballot, but if you know a little bit more about [the candidate’s] platform, it might sway your decision,” Hiestand said.

Sophomore Kevin Gallagher, proxy for Duncan senator John Cresson, said BridgeND, College Republicans, College Democrats and others are collaborating on a project called Converge, which he said will be coming to Notre Dame’s campus after fall break.

Gallagher said Converge is an online test people take to figure out where they fall on the political spectrum. The program then uses an algorithm to pair the person up with someone who has a similar degree of beliefs, but on the opposite side of the partisan divide. On their own time, the pairs can then meet up and use a scripted outline to have a conversation on political issues.

“It’s basically just to talk to someone leading up to these midterms, which can be pretty polarizing,” Gallagher said. “But the whole purpose of the event is to get people really excited about voting and get more people voting.”

The senate also discussed ways to increase voter engagement within the dorms. Hiestand suggested a competition between dorm sections to incentivize students to vote.

“When you send in your vote, you sign a sheet and whichever section has the most signatures by the end of the election could get a prize,” Hiestand said.

Judicial Council president Shady Girgis, a junior, also proposed monthly debates in the dorms about candidate platforms and important political issues.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified a speaker at the senate meeting. Kevin Gallagher, proxy for Duncan senator John Cresson, discussed Converge at Monday’s senate meeting.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

Contact Claire