To celebrate National Voter Registration Day, campus organizations registered 72 students to vote on Greene Street on Tuesday.
Student Government, Richland County Voter Outreach, the Leadership and Service Center and 2020 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Jamie Harrison participated in the effort.
“It’s important that people go out and exercise their right, because if they don’t, then they allow other people — who may have different agendas ... values than their own — dictate and determine what happens in society,” Harrison said.
USC's Leadership and Service Center is home to the Civic Leadership Education Action Team (CLEAT) which works to increase civic education and action on campus. CLEAT wants to make sure students are registered to vote both in Richland County and their hometowns through absentee ballots. So far this year, CLEAT has registered 305 students to vote.
“CLEAT is a non-partisan organization, so we don't necessarily care what students do in terms of civic engagement or what party they support,” said Carly Zerr, a leadership coach from the Leadership and Service Center. “We just want students to care about something ... and really support that, whether it’s through service, leadership or policy and civic engagement. ... Voting is a great way to do that and to hear your voice in a civic process.”
USC is partnered with TurboVote, an online service that guides students through the process of registering to vote and sends them optional notifications when elections are approaching. If students who are looking to register to vote were unable to make it to the event, they can register online anytime. Student Government is also hosting other engagement opportunities this week, such as a city council forum on Sept. 25 and a civic engagement fair on Sept. 26.
Students like Emily Martin, a first-year marine science student, said they realize the importance of voting and staying politically active.
“As a citizen, I have an obligation to say ‘This is what I want,’" Martin said. “If I don’t vote ... I can’t complain if what I don’t want to happen, happens.”
Still, there are many who don’t exercise their fundamental right.
“I feel like the youth have a big say in politics, big say in government, but that's definitely a historically underrepresented group,” first-year geography student Blake Gibbons said. “College students, millennials don’t get as much as they should.”
Harrison said he has “a little secret that young people should understand — they are actually the largest voting block in America.” He wants students to know that while political leaders have a responsibility to their constituents, constituents also have a responsibility to make sure they pick the best people to represent themselves.
While the youth are the biggest voting block in America, the only time this fact becomes a political force is when everyone votes. Fourth-year sport and entertainment management student Lyric Swinton helped at the Student Government stand to register voters and hopes this sentiment sticks with students as they register.
“I want people to know the power of their vote. A lot of times people think ‘I’m just one person I don’t matter’ — but you do matter. Every vote counts," Swinton said. "Even the smallest contribution makes a big difference.”