University of Maryland students who access Testudo, the hub for course scheduling and transcript information, may have noticed a new feature at the top of the page.
A red “REGISTER TO VOTE!” banner, which was designed with the help of the university’s Terps Vote coalition, now sits near the top of the site, in preparation for November’s midterm elections.
It had been on the site’s navigation bar before, but now it’s more noticeable, said John Zacker, co-chair of the coalition.
“It just wasn’t prominent enough. So [the Office of the Registrar] agreed with us that it would be terrific, leading up to whatever election, whether it’s a midterm or presidential election that we would find a way to make that more prominent,” he said.
Terps Vote has registered about 300 new voters since the new student welcome on Aug. 24, according to Gideon Epstein, also a co-chair of the coalition.
The button could be the reason, Epstein said.
“So many students interact with that interface on a daily basis,” said Epstein, who is also the Student Government Association’s Director of Civic and Governmental Affairs.
In 2012, about 69 percent of students at this university who were registered to vote in the presidential election actually did. But for the 2014 midterm election, that number dropped to about 26 percent, according to a Tufts University study.
Terps Vote is a coalition of groups trying to change that, Epstein said. It also includes other groups, like the Student Government Association, MaryPIRG and Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society.
MaryPIRG has made voter registration one of their main projects this semester.
“Every election is important, it’s not just the presidential election,” said Luna Homsi, MaryPIRG campaign coordinator for the New Voters Project.
The coalition is also working with two civic engagement interns. Last year, university President Wallace Loh, alongside all other Big Ten presidents, pledged $10,000 to hire them as part of the Big Ten Voting Challenge.
Alexandra Marquez, one of those interns, said she’s been working to build the Terps Vote website and create posters to be hung in residence halls and other campus buildings.
She’s also helped manage the team’s social media accounts and acted as a liaison between the coalition and College Park Scholars. Many of the students in Scholars are freshman, Marquez said, which makes reaching out to them all the more important.
“They’ve never voted before so it’s really important to get them involved and get them ready and excited to vote,” she said.
The university is also one of 415 institutions involved in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge which “encourages [higher education] institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship,” according to the ALL IN Challenge website.
With a consequential midterm election just a few months away, students ought to remember the importance of their vote, Epstein said.
“In general, I think there’s a trend in this country that young people are not satisfied with the status quo,” he said. “Students want to see changes.”