USC campus organizations worked together to raise awareness and encourage students to vote during the first National Voter Registration Day event held on campus since the pandemic.
The nonpartisan voter registration event held on Sept. 28 at Alumni Park marked another National Voter Registration Day at USC. The event, hosted by VoteSC, Political Student Assembly and the Center for the Political Future had tables set up with computers and QR codes that directed students to register to vote and help them through the process.
Volunteers provided instructions for students to register and helped them through the process, and the organizations also gave out vouchers for the Coolhaus Ice Cream Truck if students pledged to vote.
Some students were receptive to the National Voter Registration Day events and were encouraged by the push to get students civically engaged.
“Even standing here in line and having people come up to us, talk to us, it starts conversations. Conversations lead to thoughts. Thoughts lead to actions eventually,” said Progress Adebayo, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience. “There’s such a mass notion of the idea that so many people don’t vote. And then because of that, so many people don’t get the results that they want and the outcome of how they want the country to look like.”
The ice cream incentive was a concern for Anthony Ramirez, a junior majoring in arts, technology and the business of innovation, who felt that the dessert reward may trivialize the ultimate goals of getting students registered to vote.
“I think it gets people more aware. But I do think that there are better ways to go about community engagement and kind of like really communicating the idea that your voice matters in ways that aren’t just ice cream,” Ramirez said.
While voter turnout among the 18 to 34-year-old age group increased to 57% from 49% in 2016, according to the Census Bureau, young people have historically had low voter turnout compared to other age demographics.
“Many students fail to register to vote until it is directly brought to their attention,” said Sydney Brown, president of Trojan Democrats, which partners with VoteSC to increase visibility for National Voter Registration Day. “We believe it is crucial for USC students to be engaged in their civic duty of voting and are eager to register as many students as possible.”
Since it began in 2018, VoteSC has registered close to 3,000 students. The organization last held a National Voter Registration Day outreach event in 2019, when they registered students in preparation for the 2020 elections.
Christian Burks, co-president of VoteSC, wants to continue the momentum of 2020.
“[One of VoteSC’s goals is to] keep up the civic engagement and activism that was really prominent in last year’s election where I noticed great engagement among students and very high levels of turnout,” Burks said.
Burks said since freshmen who recently turned 18 missed out on the 2020 national election, getting them registered was a primary target for the organization.
“With primaries for the 2022 election coming faster than we realize, it’s better to get them registered sooner rather than later,” Burks said.
Jillian Fallon, the executive director of the Political Student Assembly, emphasized the importance of voting.
“Our goal for organizing National Voter Registration Day is to remind students that they have power and equip them to use that power,” Fallon said. “Voting is so essential for our democracy, and I am always inspired by the young people who are changing the political atmosphere. It all starts with voting, and National Voter Registration Day is just the first step.”
Students can also register to vote online through VoteSC.