UConnPIRG nears registration goal, encourages students to vote

UConnPIRG tables on Fairfield Way to register students to vote in future elections. This year UConnPIRG has registered 2204 voters, just shy of their 2500 student goal. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

UConnPIRG has registered 2204 new voters so far on campus this year, according to the organization, and plans to register more for the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016.

“This year, pretty much all of our resources and time are going into this issue,” said Casey Lambert, UConnPIRG secretary. “Our goal is [to register] 2500 students, and hopefully we will surpass that.”

The organization has been working with students, faculty and University of Connecticut staff to encourage students to register, Lambert said, since late September. Several offices and locations on campus, including the Student Union and the iCenter in the Wilbur Cross building, offer registration forms and information to students.

Additionally, UConnPIRG holds drives in dormitories and during classes to encourage students to register, Lambert said, as well as setting up tables near popular areas such as dining halls.

Students can also register online up until midnight on the Nov. 1 deadline, said campus coordinator and ConnPIRG member Shawna Upton.

A recent issue has been students incorrectly filling out registration forms, as the Daily Campus reported on Wednesday. However, Upton said, this is not a bar to students’ ability to vote.

“We have same-day registration in Connecticut, so if there’s a problem, then students can still vote on election day,” Upton said.

Most of the incorrect forms are submitted by students who attempt to register on their own without any guidance, Upton said, making mistakes such as using a Massachusetts driver’s license instead of a Connecticut license.

UConnPIRG volunteers are trained to help students through the often-confusing document, said member and registration volunteer Walter Dodson, a first semester political science major.

“We all know what the form should look like,” Dodson said. “We’ve trained all of our volunteers.”

Volunteers at a registration table or office help walk the student through filling out the form, Dodson said, which only requires a Connecticut driver’s license or the last four digits of the student’s Social Security number to fill out.

The whole process takes about one to three minutes to complete with a volunteer, “depending on how fast they write,” Lambert said.

Students can see if they’re registered to vote by checking the Connecticut Secretary of State’s website, Upton said. Successfully registered voters also receive a receipt in the mail, though this can take up to two to three weeks, Upton said.

Overall, Upton said, there have been few incorrect forms that UConnPIRG volunteers have encountered.

“Compared to the thousands that the Registrar's Office [has seen], only a small number are incomplete or unable to vote,” Upton said.   

Once they are registered on campus, Upton said, students will stay registered for all four years.

UConnPIRG plans to hold registration drives up until Nov. 1, Upton said, and will have a Halloween table at the Student Union on Monday. Students can contact the UConnPIRG office for help registering online as well.

Even after the registration deadline, UConnPIRG encourages students to go vote on Election Day, Lambert said.

“The political climate of our country is changing… and our goal is to increase our generation's participation,” she said. “A voter at 18 is a voter for life. Our generation is the largest voting bloc... and we need to take advantage of that.”

The Mansfield Community Center, which is across the street from Price Chopper, will hold the polls on Election Day, Lambert said.

Upton, who has worked with MassPIRG previously, said that she has seen an increase in student participation and involvement in the election.

“Way more people are already registered and are going through the absentee process,” Upton said. “It means way more students are engaged.”

Those who aren’t able to vote, such as international students, can still participate in the election by making their voices heard, Lambert said.

“We do have international students working on this [registration] campaign,” Lambert said. “[The election] affects the lives of people living in this country who can’t vote. You can still voice your opinion… Everyone has a voice, even if they don’t have it in the polls.”

Overall, the students have reacted well to UConnPIRG’s registration drive, Lambert said.

“Generally we’ve had a very positive response across campus from students and faculty,” Lambert said. “We’re trying our best to work with everyone.”

Dodson said that students should appreciate their right to vote.

“To have that choice and ability [to vote] should never be taken for granted,” Dodson said. “The fact that we have that right is something we should all hold dear. We don’t care who you vote for. Just vote.”


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing