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Student groups encouraging peers to register to vote

2018-09-28-Engaging-students-to-vote
Members of Politically Incorrect Club hand out voter registration forms Sept. 25 in the Martha T. Nesbitt Building on UNG's Gainesville-Campus. Politically Incorrect Club president Jeffrey Yaun, left, and Politically Incorrect Club officer Joshua B. Jones, center, talk to UNG freshman Jeremy Crofts about registering to vote.

"Have you registered to vote?"

Chances are if you are a student at the University of North Georgia (UNG), you have heard this phrase multiple times this week from different students in a variety of high-traffic areas.

UNG student groups such as the Student Government Association, the Politically Incorrect Club, the Political Science Student Association (PSSA), the History Club, and the Debate Club, along with the statewide organization Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), have been manning tables during the lunch and dinner hours to register students 18 and older to vote in this year's election.

It's no coincidence student groups have pushed voter registration in recent weeks. First, National Voter Registration Day was Tuesday, Sept. 25. Second and more importantly, the final day for eligible voters to register in Georgia is Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Jeremy Crofts, a 19-year-old freshman from Dahlonega, Georgia, plans to vote in his first election this year. The film and digital media major stopped to pick up a voter registration packet Sept. 25 in the Nesbitt building.

"I was curious what we are voting on this time, so I can do some research and determine how I will vote," Crofts said.

Members of the Politically Incorrect Club on UNG's Gainesville Campus obliged him. They explained this year is the mid-term elections when Congressional seats — 35 of 100 U.S. senators and all 435 U.S. representatives — are up for election but the president is not. Georgia also will elect a new governor, as Gov. Nathan Deal is limited to two terms.

"And it is easy," said Jeffrey Yaun, president of the Politically Incorrect Club. "All you have to do is fill out the form, fold it in half and put it the mail. You don't even need a stamp."

Crofts plans to vote.

"I've never voted before," he said. "I'm very excited about it."

20185-09-28-Voter-Registration-2

As a member of Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, Carlos Galindo, left, encourages University of North Georgia students to register to vote in the Student Center on UNG's Gainesville Campus.

To help Crofts and other students make informed decisions, the PSSA clubs on the Cumming and Dahlonega campuses have been hosting open forums on the trending and hot-button issues. Dr. Stephen Northam, lecturer of political science and adviser of the PSSA on the Cumming Campus, explained he sticks to topics rather than candidates.

"In my personal opinion, when we focus on the candidate it gets into characteristics of the person and whether the person likes or dislikes him or her," he said. "We lose focus on what the candidate has to say about the issue. When it gets down to finger-pointing, then it loses the open forum of sharing ideas and respect for the other person."

Open forums get students talking about the issues, though it is not showing up in the ballot box. But it isn't because 18-year-olds to 29-year-olds don't vote. It is because many aren't registered to vote.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 49 million young people are eligible to vote while 39 million senior citizens are eligible to vote. However, youth voter registration rates are much lower than older age groups' rates.

UNG sophomore Trey Young thinks some students don't vote because many see the federal government as corrupt, leading them to be cynical about voting.

"And it's easy to say Congress doesn't do anything," the 20-year-old from Albany, Georgia, said. "But it's more complex than that."

Young knows that first-hand. He worked for U.S. Rep. Henry "Hank" Johnson, who represents the Fourth District of Georgia, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., this past summer. And Young got a real behind-the-scenes look at Congress in motion.

Armed with the knowledge, the communications major with a concentration in journalism plans to encourage everyone he knows to vote in the November mid-term elections.

"It is important to vote because that's how a democracy works," Young said, "Public policy will impact your life in a number of ways."

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