ND Votes initiative registers student athletes to vote, encourages campus-wide civic engagement
Elizabeth Prater | Friday, September 25, 2020
Notre Dame athletics is collaborating with ND Votes and other organizations to register 100% of Notre Dame athletes to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
ND Votes is a nonpartisan campaign — part of the Center for Social Concerns and sponsored by the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy and the Constitutional Studies minor.
Under the direction of co-chairs Rachel Sabnani and Michael Marotta, ND Votes teamed up with Notre Dame athletics to participate in a voting initiative to raise civic engagement amongst Notre Dame athletes.
Sabnani explained the unique purpose of the organization.
“We’re not like a typical student club,” Sabnani said. “We run as a task force that’s made up of representatives from every dorm and a lot of political issue-focused clubs on campus.”
Before ND Votes got involved, the athletic department’s voting initiative was catalyzed by the men’s basketball team in partnership with Howard, the historically Black university that Notre Dame will play in January.
“Both teams came together and they’re having a voter registration competition through When We All Vote, the nonprofit website they’ve been using,” Rachel Sabnani said. “Then, Coach McGraw reached out to us and we were registering teams.”
ND Votes has also been collaborating with Student Welfare and Development to organize Zoom meetings to get all the teams on campus registered.
“There are 11 teams registered to vote and 446 student athletes currently,” Sabnani said.
BridgeND co-president Gregory Miller said he admires the efforts of Notre Dame athletics and ND Votes in creating the voting initiative. However, he said that he believes there are further challenges.
“It’s one thing to get people to register to vote, now the challenge is getting people to vote,” he said. “And then the further challenge is getting people to vote with an informed vote.”
Miller also believes Notre Dame needs to encourage their students, especially athletes to vote.
“There’s always going to still be challenges, but this is the first step in increasing the political culture on the Notre Dame campus, and particularly among athletes who might otherwise not register to vote because they’re a population that tends not to,” he said.
Sabnani cited the large percent of unregistered athletes as part of the organization’s collaboration with Notre Dame’s athletic department.
“We had found that a lot of the athletes weren’t registered at all, probably a larger percentage than the normal [Notre Dame] student body, just because they’re so busy,” she said.
While the main focus of the initiative is to get the athletic departments to register to vote, civic responsibility doesn’t end with the athletes. Many other organizations have been getting involved during Civic Engagement Week in order to drive more conversations about civic responsibility and duty.
On Monday, the Notre Dame College Democrats and College Republicans engaged in a debate over student-submission questions about current issues, candidates, and the election as a whole.
Zach Holland, a co-president for Notre Dame College Democrats, said he was really excited about the events that his organization participated in this week as it has boosted the energy of the club. But he also stated that civic responsibility was even more than casting a ballot or taking part in debates.
“We’ve all been given the privilege to make an impact, however small that impact would be. I would urge people to take that impact and their voice heard, even if it seems small,” he said. “Civic engagement is about coming together as a community to fight for the people that need your help. It’s important that you stand up to help other people.”
The president of the Notre Dame College Republicans, Adam Morys, said that he believed another aspect of civic duty and responsibility is keeping yourself informed.
“Familiarize yourself with what’s going on,” he said. “That way you’ll know how your vote is going to impact the country.”
Beyond campus organizations, dorm liaisons have even taken to conducting voter registrations within the dorm hall. Libby Messman, a sophomore living in Pasquerilla West Hall, said she has helped incentivize voting by spearheading a section competition within the dorm.
“Especially in college, it’s really hard to vote absentee and that shouldn’t be the case, so I wanted to make sure that people who want to vote know how to do it and are able to get their absentee ballot,” Messman said.
The collaborative efforts of Notre Dame athletics, ND Votes, political organizations across campus and dorms have provided Notre Dame students with many resources to make an informed decision this election season.
Rachel Sabnani got involved with ND Votes due to the number of these resources available during Welcome Weekend and it has stuck with her ever since.
“Notre Dame has taught me that being involved in your community is an important part of our civic duty,” Sabnani said.
Editor’s note: A pervious version of this article incorrectly stated that the women’s basketball team partnered with Howard University, when it was the men’s basketball team that partnered with Howard University. The Observer regrets this error.