7 days of the election: Civic duty on and off campus

University of Connecticut USG is trying to increase voter registration among the student body. (Judah Shingleton/ The Daily Campus)

In Room 216 of the Student Union, office cubicles are plastered with Halloween and fall decor. Artificial leaves and pumpkins hang from desks. A yellow wallpaper on the door displays a witch hat and the words “Happy Halloween.” Inside, paper skeletons and cotton spider webs are dispersed around the walls. For members of USG, the decorations mean something else is coming: elections. Not only does USG have to handle Nov. 6 midterms this year, but the organization is also hosting a special election for senators on the same day.

One of USG’s main goals is to get students involved in voting and registering individuals to go to the polls. The organization was presented at UConnPIRG’s ‘Ballot Block Party’ last Friday.

USG set up a poster board titled, “I vote because…” Students passing wrote their respective reasons on a yellow sticky note and attached them to the board. Those working the table also passed out deep blue pins, pens and gel bracelets, all in an an effort to get students to the polls.

Omar Taweh, the director of public relations for USG, says the task of getting students engaged and ready to vote is immense as is. The Tier III groups are all student fee funded, so it is important to give back to the student body and encourage them to make their voices heard both in campus and midterm elections, he said.

“We [the organizations] are using the same general pool of resources to support the same general pool of students,” Taweh said. “So groups like PIRG, UCTV and USG collaborating is only going to make stronger the case for a student to vote and also the target groups of students on campus.”

A video also surfaced on USG’s Facebook page on Sunday titled “I’m a Husky, I’m a Voter.”

The clip shows students, staff and state representatives alike sharing who they are and why they vote. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy (D), UConn President Susan Herbst and Dean of Students Eleanor JB Daugherty made surprise appearances and detailed why they, as adults, are contributing to the voting movement inspired by the young people of America.

“I am a dad,” Murphy said.

“I am a millennial,” USG President Ama Appiah said, facing the Benton with a view of the Student Union behind her.

“I’m a big sister,” UConnPIRG students state board chair Kharl Reynado said. The viewers were then informed of why those positions motivated the speakers to vote and get involved.

The clip is a spearhead effort between UConnPIRG, UCTV and USG to inspire a sense of community in UConn voters and appeal to all types of students, Taweh said. The video is proof that voting doesn’t only apply to individuals in USG, Taweh adds. He hopes that this principle will help students in all clubs on campus become motivated to vote.

“Rather than just getting people who are interested in student government, we are also getting students that interested in film production and those who are interested in activism on their campus,” Taweh said. “The more you hear it the more likely you’ll do it (vote). It’s important to be repetitive and say ‘vote, vote, vote.’”

Members at the USG table at the ‘Ballot Block Party’ also passed out light green forms titled “Run USG” as a means of informing passing students of the opportunity to run for office. The deadline to submit the election packets with signatures to the USG office is Friday, Nov. 2 at 12 p.m. Taweh says the connection between student government voting and midterm voting is vital.

“USG aims to ask for student voices whether there is frustrations with parking, dorm life or issues with administration that they want to have addressed,” Taweh said. “We want students to vote in the upcoming election so we can teach them how to advocate for themselves. USG may not always be there to advocate for them—the federal government will.”

Back in the office USG’s External Affairs Committee Chair Damon Reynolds sits down to work on election initiatives, both on campus and off, for the next week. It is a busy time for his committee and USG in general.

The goal of the organization in the upcoming days, Reynolds said, is to recruit students for on-campus cooperation with administration, as well as encouraging students in person to vote in the midterms.

“At the state level, the decisions made affect UConn students, like budget cuts and different pieces of legislation that could positively or negatively affect UConn,” Reynolds said. “We have a governor race coming up that could potentially change the course of this state. So, it’s important that, at the state level, we’re sending people that will work with UConn to help build us up, but also at the national level to make sure people are representing the views of our generation.”

USG’s social media pages are also teeming with posts regarding midterm election events and special election reminders, with pictures from the block party and flyers about running for USG senate positions. The reason, Taweh and Reynolds both say, is a growing initiative to get students passionate and involved at every angle and approach.

“It is so important that we have a UConn student body that is engaged and that is willing to stand up and work with administrators and those who run USG,” Reynolds said.

Beyond the walls of Room 216, students walk about the Union: heading to grab a piece of pizza at Union Street Market, studying at one of the tables that overlooks the cafeteria or heading to the Veterans Oasis to do homework and study with fellow military students. Meanwhile, the occupants of the USG office still bustle, readying themselves for the upcoming elections.


Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at taylor.harton@uconn.edu.