Members of the University of Maryland SGA spent Friday and Saturday night at bars registering other students to vote.
Scott Cronin, the Student Government Association’s civic engagement director and the student co-chair for TerpsVote — a coalition of university community members that works to increase students’ civic engagement — explained the SGA’s civic and governmental affairs committee came up with the idea during a committee meeting.
Since then, he had been working to recruit volunteers to help with the initiative.
“There’s quite a nightlife here in College Park, and that nightlife results in a lot of folks standing outside, waiting to go participate in said nightlife,” Cronin, a junior government and politics major, said. “That is a perfect opportunity to bother people and get them registered to vote.”
This university has a partnership with TurboVote, a website that helps users register to vote and make a plan for voting. Volunteers with the SGA held clipboards with QR codes linking to the university’s TurboVote website and approached students waiting in line for bars, including Cornerstone Grill & Loft, Terrapin’s Turf, Looney’s Pub and RJ Bentley’s.
Volunteers spoke to a lot of students on a crowded Friday night where lines at bars snaked around corners. Some students were uninterested in registering while others excitedly told volunteers they were already registered or scanned the QR code to register or check their registration status.
Cronin said the SGA and TerpsVote were hoping to register as many voters as possible.
In the last midterm election in 2018, national student voter turnout stood at 40 percent, according to the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University. This university’s student voter turnout was even higher that year, at 46 percent.
“If that’s five folks it’s worth our time. If that’s 500 folks it’s worth our time,” Cronin said. “Every person who registers makes a difference.”
As of Monday morning, the SGA registered about 50 people to vote through their efforts at the bars, as well as in front of dining halls, where they’ve been registering students over the past week. About 210 people scanned the SGA’s QR codes to check their registration status, set election reminders or request mail in ballots.
SGA speaker of the legislature Meghana Kotraiah, a junior agricultural and resource economics and government and politics major, participated in the voter registration effort to encourage her peers to vote. She explained many students were unsure of their registration status because they had registered several years ago.
“I thought it went really well in terms of people using the TurboVote website to check their status or even to make a plan to vote if they hadn’t thought about mail-in ballots or something yet,” Kotraiah said.
The SGA and TerpsVote will continue their efforts to increase student engagement leading up to the Nov. 8 midterm election, including by providing buses to students for early voting sites off campus.
Alec Musheno, a marketing analytics graduate student, scanned one of the QR codes to check his registration status. Musheno said he appreciated the SGA volunteers taking the time on a Friday night to bolster student civic engagement.
“I think what they’re doing — meeting us where we want to be on a Friday night — is immensely important. It makes all the difference to reach out to a population like this and for SGA to be doing that … I think that’s exactly what we need,” Musheno said.