A University of Wisconsin student group has registered 5,463 students — 19 percent of the undergraduate student body — to vote in November’s general election.
The drive, called the New Voters Project, was run by Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group and set a new record nationally for students registered to vote in a semester.
“The total makes it really historical,” said Samantha Gibb, a WISPIRG campus organizer. “We made a huge impact by getting all of the students registered.”
WISPIRG relied on volunteers during the registration period and dramatically increased their saturation on campus during the last three days of their campaign.
“We had over 200 volunteers for a total of over 900 hours (of labor) in the last three days,” Gibb said. “The number of people who are excited about the election and getting the student voice heard is really awesome.”
WISPIRG volunteer and UW freshman Lucy Xue noted the visibility of the volunteers on campus was clear.
“Some people registering voters were very in-your-face,” Xue said. “I think that the people who registered did so because they really want to vote, though. I was really happy they were there for their own reasons.”
Xue, who is not a U.S. citizen, said for her, volunteering is a way of still participating in the election.
“Voting is very important, and in my opinion, it is a citizen’s duty to vote,” Xue said. “I can’t vote, but I still care about the election and want to help other people. I am hoping that others now are motivated enough to go to the polls.”
UW freshman Elise Digga, a media intern and volunteer for WISPIRG, said the New Voters Project is a part of a larger effort that took place at several college campuses, including UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Green Bay.
Overall, 12,472 students completed registration forms statewide.
“It was a huge turnout,” Digga said. “You really get involved and see firsthand the effect you are having on other people.”
WISPIRG is a part of the campuswide Vote Coalition, which includes seven student organizations. Their job in the coming weeks includes raising awareness about the election and getting students to the polls on Nov. 4.
UW junior and College Democrats Chair Claire Rydell said her organization has been focusing on getting the word out about early voting.
“Right now, we are really encouraging people to vote early,” Rydell said. “You can vote at the City Clerk’s office until Election Day. We are also doing a lot of work the weekend before and on Election Day to make sure that everyone gets to vote.”
Rydell said student involvement in this particular election has been impressive.
“People are definitely excited. It’s been wonderful that so many people are out registering voters, no matter what political party or candidate they are supporting,” Rydell said. “The volunteer support on Election Day will be very crucial. I think that when people help, they realize just how important they are to this election.”