Student Organization Encourages Students to Register to Vote Following Low 2018 Midterm Turnout

This article was originally published in Iowa State Daily on September 9, 2019.

Americans have one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the developed world, compounded with tens of millions not even registered to vote.

In the 2018 midterm elections, just over half of the voting eligible population turned out to vote. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau found 21.4 percent of those eligible to do so had not registered to vote. Various groups and individuals in Iowa are trying to increase voter registration in the state.

Vote Everywhere is a student organization at Iowa State with goals including increasing voter turnout and ensuring people are registered to vote.

The president of the organization Hayat Sumael, sophomore in criminal justice, said the organization is planning on collaborating with the College Democrats and College Republicans to boost student voter registration numbers, using events like the mock caucus, scheduled for Oct. 17.

“We already registered for the voter friendly challenge on campus, so by the year 2021 if we have our agenda … the school will be recognized as a voter friendly campus,” Sumael said. “The 24th of this month is national voter registration day so we got places reserved so we can register voters.”

Sumael said when she was growing up her family was not very political, and she is interested in how minorities have lower voter turnout rates.

“Being a minority, I think that’s a big thing … to form coalitions with diversity and inclusion and helping kids on campus know they are heard no matter who they are,” Sumael said.

Vote Everywhere is affiliated with the Andrew Goodman Foundation. Goodman was a civil rights activist from New York who was killed alongside James Chaney and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi while they were working to register black individuals to vote in the state. The foundation “works to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy,” according to their website.

The student organization is not alone on campus in their goals make sure students are easily able to register to vote.

In an interview with the Daily in August, Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen said the university had a recent success in terms of making it easier for students to vote on campus.

“[T]he Story County Auditor provided the ISUCard office with postage paid voter registration forms to distribute to students,” Wintersteen said.

Sumael said Vote Everywhere is a nonpartisan group and works with both the College Republicans and College Democrats on voter registration. 

On the mock caucus and other events, she said they are doing these events to get people excited and motivated to vote.

“There’s going to be candy, and it’s actually going to teach people something. Our goal is not only to register voters, but it’s to actually teach people about what they’re voting on — who they’re voting for,” Sumael said.

In most states, the secretary of state is the state-level official charged with managing elections and voter registrations. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is among those in the National Association of Secretaries of State acknowledging “national voter registration” month — held annually in September since 2002.

Pate reminded Iowans in a tweet Sunday to update their voter registration if they have moved recently, and Friday he retweeted the account of National Association of Secretaries of State celebrating national voter registration month.