Voter registration drives will be taking place on campus as several Democratic and Republican groups prepare for the hotly-contested mid-term elections in November.
While Illinois is solidly blue nationally, the state has a close race for governor currently in progress with most polls showing incumbent Pat Quinn (D – Chicago) and challenger Bruce Rauner (R – Winnetka) tied. With that, every last vote could make all the difference.
“On campus, Turning Point is really pushing voter registration, so we are literally tabling every Monday,” Nicole Been said, SGA Senator for the College of Education and president of the DePaul chapter of Turning Point USA. “Voter turnout is really going to be the determining factor, so we want to get as many Republicans as possible to go out and vote.”
Been added that the conservative organizations on campus are joining together with their efforts this election cycle as well.
“We have this program called the free market alliance, which lets us legally unify with College Republicans,” she said. “They’re doing more to get kids involved with the Rauner campaign and as a result, through the Rauner campaign, we’re doing voter registration.”
The DePaul Dems, on the other hand, will be working to register voters in coordination with the College Democrats of Illinois. Despite DePaul beginning fall quarter much later than most universities, and thereby providing less time to register students, the Democrats have set an ambitious goal to register 1,000 students before this year’s elections.
“I am really glad to see that all sorts of organizations are a part of the voter registration efforts,” Cameron Erickson said, treasurer of the DePaul Democrats. “DePaul Democrats is just really excited to be a part of that.”
While acknowledging the university’s liberal bent, Been said that she knows that some of her organization’s efforts will lead to signing up some Democrats along with the conservatives they are looking to attract. But, she is not concerned.
“I know that we’re signing up Democrats. But we’re signing up Democrats who are sick of the whole Quinn era,” she said. “So we’re okay with that. We’re open to anyone who wants to sign up and vote.”
Much of the messaging Turning Point has used to entice potential voters to register is to put them into a real life situation. For instance, they have asked people what their major is and how their vote or decision to not vote could potentially affect them.
“I think are biggest target with all the other organizations on campus is getting kids aware and putting them in real life situations,” Been said. “I mean, we live in an amazing city with so many opportunities. Yet, unfortunately, it’s kind of falling to the politics of Illinois.”
For Erickson and the Dems, the pitch very much included issues such as student loans that connect with young people.
“Anybody that is waffling on whether to vote or not should really know that, frankly, the stakes are too high not to. You have MAP grants in Springfield, IL on the state level that need to be preserved,” Erickson said. “You have efforts by Republican Tea Partiers across the country, particularly in the South, who are trying to implement draconian voter ID laws and legislation to disenfranchise students and other communities.”
With the turnout in student government elections at about 10 percent last quarter and getting students to vote in an off-year election offering up a significant challenge, both Been and Erickson cannot stress enough how high the stakes are.
“Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner have a very close election, and some of the polls have them neck and neck,” Erickson said. “And regardless of what side of the aisle you fall under, the stakes are too high to sit this one out.”