Campus community provides resources, encourages voter engagement
With the 2020 elections quickly approaching and the primaries just around the corner, whether students are exercising their civic responsibility remains a question.
While some students may have missed the primary registration deadline for Missouri on Feb.12, the university will have new resources on hand through the later stages of this election year.
One of those will be through the Law, Politics, and Society Club. President Robert Phillippe said the club will help inform students about their opportunities to register.
The club is working to promote voter engagement as part of a class function in political science professor Laura Hatcher's voting rights course, PS496.
The club is working with the class to ensure the project comes together.
“We’ve been interested in doing this for a while,” Phillippe said. “One of [the Law, Politics, and Society Club’s] goals is just, in general, to promote civic engagement, and now we’re going into an extremely important election year.”
He said the 2020 election offers a chance for the club to educate Southeast voters on getting their vote cast, regardless of where they may be voting.
Phillippe said other groups have attempted to help address the needs of student voters, but support from the club and voting rights course could help ensure students are registered.
There are others who have cast a more general net in trying to cover voters in the local area, including those outside the college.
Digital Arts Professor Emily Denlinger runs SEMO Votes, a community organization that has been setting up informational stations at Towers Complex, the University Center and other university locations to help students register to vote.
Many non-regional or out-of-state students, she said, will often register to vote locally because they live in the area while they go to school. For Denlinger, teaching students about voting absentee is a significant part of her mission.
“A lot of groups that have been doing campus registration in the past weren’t offering [absentee voting] as an option,” she said. “And when I went to the county election authority to start doing this in 2018, they talked to me about, ‘Well, we wish more students would vote absentee in the community where it actually is important to them.’”
She started this effort to help students and residents register in 2018, she said, because it gives them more of a sense of “ownership over what’s happening in America.”
“I want students to feel comfortable,” Denlinger said. “I don’t want to have another thing where I have a classroom of students feeling like, ‘Oh, wait, I didn’t vote.’"
She said the students in the Law, Politics, and Society Club have been in contact, and she’s been sharing information with them, as well.
If a person votes once, she said, they are more likely to vote a second time. She said she wants students to develop a pattern of casting their ballots.
“Even if we just register one student, we’ve still helped that student become comfortable with the voting process and that educational process,” she said.
Several of the non-local students Phillippe said he has helped have come from Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, so there haven’t been major complications in assisting students with registering to vote.
For local and regional residents, voting can be as simple as going online, and Missouri voters can check their voter registration status at the Secretary of State’s website.
Southeast provides information about voting for Missouri and non-Missouri residents at https://semo.edu/campuslife/vote.html.