Maryland athletes prepare to volunteer at Xfinity Center polls on Election Day

Early voting at Xfinity Pavilion on Oct. 28, 2020. (Gabby Baniqued/The Diamondback)

For months, Hope Lewandoski has been blowing up the Maryland women’s soccer group chat with voting deadlines, registration deadlines and events. And when the polls open on Election Day, she’ll still be trying her best to make an impact.

Lewandoski, a senior midfielder for the Terps, helped University of Maryland athletics launch VoTERP in July, an initiative aimed to register Maryland athletes and staff to vote and educate them about the voting process.

On Tuesday, Lewandoski is waking up before 6 a.m. and heading to Xfinity Center to volunteer at the polls with her sister, Hannah, a fellow student at this university who’s been active with the initiative. They anticipate a large turnout of voters who haven’t voted early or by mail.

“It’s pretty cool because the athletic department has given us all the day off,” Lewandoski said. “We don’t have practice and everything, so we all have the opportunity to go out and vote.”

[Maryland volleyball embraces Xfinity Pavilion’s role as a polling station]

Xfinity Center has been open for early voting since Oct. 26, and the polls will open up on Election Day at 7 a.m. There, registered voters in Prince George’s County can cast their ballots until 8 p.m.

Several Maryland athletes besides Lewandoski will volunteer at the polls on Tuesday, including some who serve on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Lewandoski’s role with the initiative was on the education committee, but on Election Day, all the athletes involved will come together to make sure voting at Xfinity Center goes smoothly. They have been encouraged by the number of volunteers who’ve wanted to help out.

Track and field and cross country runner Julia Reicin is the director of the SAAC Executive Board and worked on VoTERP’s branding committee this fall.

“Our volunteers are pretty full for tomorrow, which has been really exciting because initially when we had to fill all these spots I feel like there’s a fear that it wouldn’t get filled,” Reicin said. “[We’re] encouraging that last push for student athletes and the campus community.”

It wasn’t easy for Lewandoski to start the voting discussion with her teammates, but she was able to engage athletes across each Maryland sport. All of her activism over the past few months has led up to Nov. 3.

[UMD students volunteer as poll workers during early voting at Xfinity Center]

“Voting and politics was never really a conversation,” Lewandoski said. “It wasn’t really on our minds all too much, and I can’t really say the same now. We really have put voting on the map in their heads, which has been pretty exciting.”

The senior from Newbury, Ohio, does not know the role VoTERP will play in the future of student-athlete activism, but she was happy the initiative met one of its primary goals of using Xfinity Center as a polling place.

Though Tuesday represents a monumental day for Maryland athletics and the entire country, Lewandoski expects VoTERP to be around in some capacity for future elections.

“I think we’ve laid a good foundation, and I think this initiative has a lot of room to grow in the next couple of years,” Lewandoski said.

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