Disclaimer: Current student liaison Dhruvak Mirani is a former Diamondback opinion columnist.
University of Maryland student liaison Dhruvak Mirani and deputy student liaison Gannon Sprinkle held a voter registration drive Wednesday at this university’s Farmer’s Market to increase student turnout in this November’s College Park city election.
Mirani, a sophomore government and politics and computer science major, and Sprinkle, a sophomore government and politics major, hoped Wednesday’s event would both increase voter turnout, and help them understand student concerns in the lead-up to November’s election.
The pair held the voter registration drive for the second consecutive Wednesday, incentivizing student voter registration with free reusable shopping bags.
Mirani highlighted that students at this university can influence College Park policies through voting in local elections.
“If even a small portion of UMD students voted, we could create a sense of shared governance between students and student residents and permanent residents of College Park,” Mirani said.
Despite having more than 40,000 students at this university, the last time there were more than 3,000 voters in a municipal election was in 1983.
One of the driving factors for low turnout among students is the need to change voter registration to vote in city elections, Sprinkle said.
But both liaisons emphasized that if students live in College Park for the entirety of the academic year, they can register to vote in this November’s city election and change their registration back to their hometown for the 2024 general elections.
“You can always change your voter registration address back,” Sprinkle said. “You can change your voting position to Maryland, to College Park specifically, and have the most active influence in our community’s policy that you can possibly have.”
During the event, some students also shared their priorities for the city council moving forward, including freshman government and politics major Yonah Gross.
Gross said the local issue that he is most focused on is safety — an issue that he believes cannot be addressed solely by more police presence.
“We need to have new, innovative answers to crime to address it,” Gross said. “I think if you have people running for office who are just gonna have the same old cop-centered idea of crime, then it’s not gonna be any better.”
Mirani said he understands students’ concerns about safety on campus, especially during the night.
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Another key issue students discussed was student housing in College Park.
Rebecca Navarro, a senior public policy and statistics major, highlighted the rising costs of off-campus housing options.
Navarro, who is also an SGA representative at this university, highlighted that there are not enough affordable off-campus housing options, which has created a “really horrible housing bubble.”
Gross added that the current housing market could cause this university to become more unaffordable to the public.
“You don’t want College Park to be a luxury,” Gross said. “When the only housing … is gonna be luxury apartments then you’re de facto making UMD a luxury.”
Mirani said that both he and Sprinkle are currently on a city council sub-committee working on a pilot program for an off-campus rental subsidy program.
“This is one of those very clear examples where undergraduate and graduate students in College Park have a very specific need,” Mirani said. “This program is just one of many ways we hope to help address that need.”