By Brad Dress
For The Diamondback
Laura Adeniyi breathed a sigh of relief as she signed up to vote in Maryland for the first time.
Adeniyi and other University of Maryland students gathered at a voter registration booth outside McKeldin Library on Tuesday — the final day to register in the state ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
She registered because she “didn’t pay attention enough” in previous election cycles, and realized how important it is to vote this year.
“I want our voices to be heard,” the sophomore government and politics major said. “Although many people say it’s just one vote — so it won’t have an impact — the more people vote, the better the impact will be.”
Adeniyi registered at a booth hosted by the university’s Terps Vote coalition, a nonpartisan student organization dedicated to helping students register to vote. The group has signed up about 2,800 new student voters since Aug. 24, said Gideon Epstein, the coalition’s co-chair.
Epstein set up booths outside large, occupied areas on campus, like the library and the business school to attract new student voters.
Students need to “make a connection” between voting in elections and campus issues like insufficient mental health resources and lack of funding for the Office of Civil Rights and , Epstein said.
“These issues are really on the ballot and it’s for students to make a connection themselves,” he said.
In addition to registration booths, the coalition helped design a “Register to Vote!” button on the Testudo homepage, and hosted a competition among student organizations to see who could register the most students. The winner will be awarded more funding from this university’s Student Government Association, said Epstein, who also serves as the SGA’s director of civic and governmental affairs.
Partisan student organizations are hard at work this election cycle, too. This university’s College Republicans chapter signed up 61 students in the Terps Vote competition, finishing in second place, said chapter President Ben Colebrook. Kedma, an Orthodox Jewish student organization, won the competition by signing up 89 students.
Colebrook said he is focused on getting popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan re-elected, as well as door-knocking for Republican candidates, including five who are vying for state senate seats to eliminate the Democrats’ 19-vote veto-proof majority in the state Senate.
“For me and College Republicans, we see how good this economy is doing right now, especially in Maryland with a Republican governor and Republican president,” said Colebrook, a junior computer science and mathematics major. “We all want to graduate under a Trump and Hogan economy.”
Sydney Poretsky, the president of this university’s College Democrats chapter, said registering new voters “shouldn’t be a competition.” While she has personally worked to register new voters outside of this university, her chapter has focused on exposing students to local candidates to increase their name recognition.
“It’s not just about registering, it’s about voting,” she said. “That’s the next big thing we have to tackle: is making sure people actually show up on election day or actually turn in their absentee ballots.”
While voter turnout is expected to be robust nationally, that doesn’t necessarily mean students at this university will follow suit, Epstein said.
In 2014, the last midterm election, only 19 percent of students at this university voted. In 2016, a high-stakes presidential election, turnout was 60 percent, he said.
Adam Mizrahi, a sophomore journalism major, said he registered to vote to address issues like climate change.
“It’s not just about voting along party lines. I think there’s just a lot of things we could do differently,” Mizrahi said. “Especially with climate change, a lot of the regulations are being stripped away, which pisses me off.”