Vote DePaul members register students on National Voter Registration Day


Kiersten Riedford

Student Ava Fischer hands an envelope and stamps to a student who is registering to vote. Fischer is a junior studying political science.

In honor of National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 20, Vote DePaul encouraged and informed students about voting access and how to get registered in the Loop and LPC. Students could register, check to see if they were already registered or request an absentee ballot through Vote DePaul.

Some students were excited as they passed by the Vote DePaul table, others indifferent; however, graduate student Hannah Waters was ready to answer any questions students had. Waters serves as a voter registration genius, or VRG for short.

“We help students register to vote, get registered, answer any voting related questions,” Waters said. “We’re just here to assist people in registering to vote because honestly, a lot of states make it as hard as possible.”

Senior Rita Ismayl, a volunteer with Vote DePaul, said the organization has been working over the past week to register students, with an emphasis on brand new Blue Demons. 

“I think the freshmen are the ones who aren’t registered yet, so we get them to register,” Ismayl said. 

Advocacy for registration for young voters is necessary; according to, only 55.8 percent of voters aged 18-24 were registered for the 2020 election. 

“One of the main goals of Vote DePaul is to get as many kids registered as possible because youth are notorious for not voting,” Waters said. “Less than half of 18-25 turned out to vote, and for many, the 2016 election was a big deal, and the reason why a certain candidate won is because certain people didn’t vote.” 

Freshman Beka Underhill approached the Vote DePaul table and was excited to finally register. 

“I’ve been needing to vote for a long time, but right when I was turning 18 is when I was transitioning to college and moving here,” Underhill said. “So it was kind of hard to do that while I was doing everything else, so this was a perfect convenient setup.”

DePaul freshman Beka Underhill registered to vote at the event last week. (Kiersten Riedford)

Underhill has had an underlying passion for voting rights for several years.

“I was part of the Young Democrats Club so we actually had an event that I helped organize where we went out through the entire cafeteria and asked people, ‘Are you 18? Do you want to register to vote right now?’ It was really cool because both the Young Democrats and the Young Republicans did it together, so we made sure that one group wasn’t feeling outcast and not wanting to register to vote,” Underhill said 

That’s something that’s incredibly important to Vote DePaul, as Waters emphasizes. 

“We are a nonpartisan organization,” Waters said. “We try our best to be very neutral when trying to get people registered, most people that come up to get registered tend to be more liberal but it’s important to be nonpartisan… A lot of kids are excited about getting registered to vote and they’re like, ‘thank you!’ because it is hard to register, and that’s one of the main barriers.” 

For Underhill, the aggravation is in people thinking their vote is meaningless.

“It’s frustrating to see that people don’t think it matters, but I understand where it comes from, and that makes me a little bit sad,” Underhill said. “It’s still important to still go out there, because we do have a voice, even if it is minute, it can still make a change. Having those hard conversations is really important because they may not realize something that is important, or you may not understand their point of view, so it’s tough and it’s really scary, but having hard conversations is really, really important.”

Many of the students working with Vote DePaul have experiences that served as catalysts for their passion for voting. Several mentioned voter turnout in the 2016 election as a reason they began to pursue activism. 

“That was a scary election and it really had me scared for America, so it was really sad that I couldn’t vote and it was upsetting knowing that the people that could vote, the younger generation that could vote at that time, didn’t go out and vote,” Ismayl said. “That’s what inspires me to push people to register to vote and to go vote myself in all the things I can vote in, so, primaries, midterms and main elections.” 

DePaul’s student body, which is largely made up of members of Generation Z (ages 17-25, in this case) according to College Factual, is particularly well-suited to handle political challenges. 

“I feel like our generation is almost, like, the activist generation, so we’ve seen all of these things happen in our lives, we saw Covid, and some of us saw 9/11,” Underhill said. “I mean, we’ve experienced so much history in such a short amount of time, and we see what needs to happen.” 

Gen Z’s experiences throughout the past decade have meant they’ve harnessed an untamed passion for social and political justice. 

“Our climate is being destroyed, and so it can make us hopeless but I also think it makes us fight harder, and so I think it’s so important [to vote]. With the Black Lives Matter movement, our entire generation stood up and led that, so I think it’s really important for us to get that into legislation as well, because then we can make change from the inside as well as doing it from the outside,” Underhill said. 

At the end of the day, Underhill’s passion for voting rights lies in personal experience. 

“As a gay individual, seeing different legislations come about, and that I was only legally allowed to marry in 2015, and seeing how important that change was and how it’s still happening today, especially because we’re a democratic country, so voting matters,” Underhill said. “And even if you think you’re just one grain in a million grains of sand, it does matter.” 

To Underhill, a real, tangible difference exists in voting. 

“It’s not only just a debate, it’s my life and my existence, it’s other people’s lives and their existence, this is super super important,” Underhill said.

Connect with Kiersten Riedford: @kriedford | [email protected]