This Friday from 3–6 p.m., the UChicago Democracy Initiative (UCDI) will be organizing buses to transport students to register and vote early at the MLK Jr. Community Center on 43rd Street and Cottage Grove.
The buses will leave every half hour from the Regenstein Library. The trips will continue on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The deadlines to register to vote by mail or online have passed (October 11 and October 23, respectively), so registering can only occur at an early voting location. Informing students of this information, as well as enabling students to act on it, has been the central goal of UCDI’s latest campaigns.
UCDI was formed early last year for the March primaries. Since then, it has collaborated with the Institute of Politics (IOP) in addition to hosting separate campaigns to further student engagement.
Third-year Andrew Corzo, a project manager within UCDI, said the voting and turnover rates for UChicago students during the past presidential election were both below the national average. According to Corzo, 41 percent of UChicago students voted at the last presidential election in contrast to the 53.6 percent national average; and just 19 percent of students voted in the midterms in comparison to country’s 36.4 percent average. “Considering we are a liberal arts school, you’d think more people would be engaged in voting, but that really wasn’t the case,” Corzo said.
UCDI staff and volunteers since then have worked to raise the voting percentage. By promoting TurboVote, an IOP civic engagement project, as well as reserving bus trips, the staff said it has begun to see an impact. “I’ve tabled a lot, and people have come to me to register and also to take the buses, and they’re always so grateful to have that kind of service because otherwise, they’d be lost,” Corzo said.
Third-year Adam Reynolds, one of the co-founders of UCDI, has noticed that students often have misconceptions about the voting process. Using TurboVote assuages the dilemma. Through its guided step-by-step instructions, TurboVote’s interface streamlines the process of registering or voting. However, should students have any questions regarding TurboVote, or about voting practices in general, UCDI staff are willing to help.
Their responsibilities extend beyond just the voting process. Reynolds said, clarifying what exactly the process is, and what it isn’t is equally as important. Once people “realize that it’s easier to do than what [they] think it is,” they’re more likely to vote again—and if that happens, UCDI would have been successful.
By utilizing the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, UCDI will be able to obtain campus-wide information about student registration and voting, as they did for the primaries. This will allow them to reflect on the effectiveness of their campaigns, or shed light on specific demographics to target. In addition, it would especially be useful for February, which is when the Fourth Ward elections will be held—an event they plan to promote once students return from winter break.
Until then, UCDI will continue to release the Citizen Bulletin, a bi-weekly informational newsletter. Their meetings are held at Regenstein on Thursdays at 8 p.m., and they are open to student suggestions regarding future events or programs they could assist in hosting.