By Ian Jeansonne
A local organization at the University of Mississippi is educating students about voter registration ahead of the fast-approaching Oct. 5 deadline to register to vote in Mississippi.
The Voting Engagement Roundtable is a Student and Faculty lead program on campus to help students better understand how to register and prepare to vote this year. The Roundtable is comprised of two subgroups that work together around campus, the Voting Ambassadors and the Faculty Champions.
Voting Ambassadors is an 11 person, student lead group that aims to work with other student-lead programs and faculty to help promote voting. The students hold class presentations and Zoom events to help teach others how to vote and to educate them on the current stats of the poles.
“The Voting Ambassadors program is important because it is a group of student leaders serving as advocates for civic engagement. We encourage our peers to be informed, get registered, and get to the polls,” said Jaycee Brown, the Operations Specialist for the Voting Ambassadors Program.
According to Brown, the voting rate for the University in the 2016 presidential election was only 35.4%.
“I think the young generation is starting to step up though,” said Brown. “A lot of students are invested in these human rights movements such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ issues, and mental health awareness. Our generation is starting to recognize how the people in office affect these movements and every aspect of our lives. It’s important for us to vote because these people will determine funding for mental health resources, healthcare policy, social services funding, and so much more.”
The Ambassadors have been able to stay connected with students during the pandemic through their Zoom presentations and always being open to answer students’ questions through email on how to register, absentee ballots, and any other related info. They are even available for one-on-one Zoom calls.
“I can tell you that I’ve seen interest in students regarding the November election. When I’m doing my presentations through Zoom, students are interactive and ask questions. I’ve received emails from students asking for assistance, so some positive impacts have definitely been made,” said Brown.
Meanwhile, the Faculty Champions work to encourage employees on campus to register to vote, and help assist the Voting Ambassadors by encouraging faculty and staff to join class meetings and online discussions.
“This is important because faculty are one of the most trusted authorities’ students are in regular contact with during the semester,” Na Youn Lee, assistant professor of social work and lead developer of the Faculty Champions program told University of Mississippi News.
Faculty can receive points toward recognition as a Faculty Champion for each step they implement in their classrooms, such as inviting students to the Roundtable debate watch, a program on the presidential and vice-presidential debate, followed by a breakout room discussion. They can also receive recognition for including voting engagement modules inside their blackboard resources.
Voting registration will be closing very soon, but the Voting Engagement Roundtable is still available for questions and help to register. The Roundtable will even be offering a shuttle to take students to vote on election day for those interested.