Program offers U. students voting tools

RU Voting, a program sponsored by the Eagleton Institute of Politics, hopes to get students registered, informed and voting for the upcoming elections, said Elizabeth Matto, the program’s administrator.

The nonpartisan organization aims to make the voting process more accessible to students by getting them registered to vote by the Oct. 16 deadline, said Matto, an assistant research professor at Eagleton.

“The more accessible that you make the electoral process, the better,” Matto said. “This year we are going to try to be an influence on campus.”

Many students neglect to vote because they are unaware of registration deadlines and polling locations.

“The realities of voter registration go against us,” she said. “States who have simple rules have higher voter turnout.”

But RU Voting makes it easier to keep students informed of voter rules, Matto said.

Students must vote where they register and change their addresses if they move from residence halls or apartments, she said.

There are several polling locations on or near campus, which vary by residence hall and are listed on the RU Voting website, ruvoting.rutgers.edu, Matto said.

Locations are subject to change, but include the Busch Campus Center and the Livingston Student Center.

Focus groups helped shape the RU Voting campaign, Matto said. Research results showed students wanted unbiased information about political candidates.

“Institutions of higher education have a responsibility to prepare young people to become active citizens,” Matto said. “Active citizenship does not come naturally. It has to be taught.”

She said students often think politics do not affect their lives.

“Like it or not, if you don’t care about politics, politics cares about you,” Matto said. “So many people are disgusted by the political process. What happens in D.C., Trenton and New Brunswick affects you now. It’s important to be aware of the process.”

Matto said more than 16 million more people are eligible to vote this year than in 2008. She called the Millennial generation “unique, powerful and best educated.”

“Young people have such a powerful tool with technology,” she said.

The students Matto works with believe peer-to-peer interaction is just as important as social media and the RU Voting website, she said. They work to reach out to students about RU Voting’s initiatives.

“The students know better how to reach the Rutgers community,” she said.

Stephanie Rivera, a School of Arts and Sciences junior working with RU Voting, said the organization attempts to understand why students are not voting and tries to address this problem. She hopes to get students involved for a large voter turnout.

“If we don’t make a choice, someone else will make them for us,” Rivera said. “This generation can be heard, we just have to show them the tools. … We can make an impact in this coming election.”

Jacob Schulman, another RU Voting member, said he hopes to get students interested in the election process by getting the word out around the University.

“A lot of people at Rutgers are very sociable,” said Schulman, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

Upcoming RU Voting events include “Pizza & Politics: Discussion with Obama & Romney Campaign Representatives” at the Eagleton Institute of Politics on Douglass campus on Oct. 3 at 12:30 p.m. RU Voting will also host “Popcorn & Politics: Presidential Debate Watch Party” at the same location on Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.


By Amanda Gomez

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