ND Votes adapts to COVID-19 restrictions ahead of elections
Ryan Peters | Tuesday, September 1, 2020
ND Votes, a student-run nonpartisan task force committed to promoting civic engagement, is switching their programming to a virtual format ahead of the upcoming election season.
Co-chaired by seniors Rachel Sabnani and Michael Marotta, the task force consists of liaisons from each dorm, representatives from several issue-based clubs and interested students without any specific affiliation. It is supported by the Center for Social Concerns, the Rooney Center for American Democracy and the Constitutional Studies Minor.
ND Votes’s primary concerns are to increase voter education, mobilization and registration; moreover, according to Sabnani, a constant goal is to provide a healthy environment for civil discourse.
“We have an underlying motive to promote civil discourse, so we partner with a lot of other organizations such as BridgeND, College Republicans, College Democrats and the Student Government to promote events that go well with civil discourse,” Sabnani said.
The signature event of ND Votes is “Pizza, Pop and Politics” –– a lecture series in Geddes Hall which typically features Notre Dame professors lecturing about an issue related to civic engagement. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force has partnered with Notre Dame Student Media to broadcast the lecture series as a podcast dubbed “Pizza, Pod and Politics.”
Marotta hopes the podcast will be an exciting way to stress the importance of civic engagement to the community.
“Our goal with the podcast is to reach as many students as possible on campus and even outside the campus community to just spread that word that … civic engagement is important,” Marotta said. “It’s not just politics. These are matters that affect real lives.”
The podcast plans to feature a variety of members from the Notre Dame community, including former head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw, in order to provide unique perspectives that expand community members’ understanding of the election. The task force also wants “Pizza, Pod and Politics” to be a hub for information about the election.
Marotta said that he hopes the podcast will “make the entire process more accessible and more understandable.”
With the election occurring in November, Sabnani stressed that voter registration is a “huge part” of ND Votes’s mission for the year.
To aid students in registering to vote and requesting absentee ballots, ND Votes created a general election guide. The guide contains details for each state and territory on how to register and request a ballot. With mail-in voting expected to increase this year due to the pandemic, Marotta and Sabnani stressed the importance of Notre Dame students voting in a timely manner.
“Notre Dame students typically vote by mail anyway, but now that everyone’s going to be voting by mail, it’s really important to get the ballots in way sooner,” Sabnani said.
Following the first task force meeting, each dorm liaison and club representative received a QR code that can be scanned to provide access to the general election guide for students. Sabnani said the virtual guide is a replacement for information tables that are typically set up around campus and other in-person events that encourage voter registration.
“That’s basically how we combatted the virtual nature of the semester, whereas normally we’re tabling in person to get people registered and handing them our own computers and all that sort of stuff, which is obviously not the best idea during the pandemic,” Sabnani said.
Marotta and Sabnani, who have both been involved with ND Votes since their freshman years, said that the ultimate purpose of ND Votes is to help students understand the importance of their vote. Marotta urged students to not take their right to vote for granted.
“To people who say that their vote doesn’t matter, I completely disagree,” Marotta said. “It matters every single time. You can’t tell me that your vote doesn’t matter because it always affects real people in real life.”