Rutgers student organizations host voter registration drive
On April 20 the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group joined together for the first time with the two governing councils, five political student groups and the Residence Hall Association to encourage students to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
Groups were set up in the student centers on every campus to promote political activism in a non-partisan manner.
Nainika Paul, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, along with other NJPIRG members, explained to Rutgers University students how to vote and the importance of speaking up.
“We have so many groups on campus who choose to table at different times and for different candidates, but we wanted to show the students and administration on Rutgers, that when needed, our groups can come together in a non-partisan and united way to give Rutgers students the chance to register to vote for the simple goal of getting their voices heard,” Paul said.
This event marks the first time liberals, conservatives, governing councils and a non-profit organization have joined together for a Rutgers Vote Day, she said. NJPIRG and the other groups knew that this was the right time to do a huge registration drive.
“It is Rutgers' 'Revolutionary 250th anniversary,' and so we wanted to create awareness of the importance of revolutionizing the field of politics through a simple way, such as voting for whoever students think best represents their interests,” she said.
Students were calling and texting their friends to meet them at the table to register, she said.
“Based on tabling an personal interactions alone, the Princeton Review has not seen the full side of Rutgers and has not been presented with the true story that when presented with an opportunity Rutgers students will use their voices and will get on board and even help others in the political processes of the elections,” Paul said.
The joining together of forces under one coalition, the “Rutgers Vote Coalition,” has created an event that will be now be a tradition, she said.
NJPIRG has signed a resolution and agreed that every election season they will come together to get as many students as possible registered to vote, so that Rutgers University can continue to be a force of change and inspiration for the community and other areas, she said.
“NJPIRG has enjoyed every second of working with these groups, especially the governing councils who are the voice of the campuses,” Paul said.
Nick Jermer, the head of the NJPIRG New Brunswick Chapter, said the mission for NJPIRG is to educate and empower the public to take action on social problems, such as fighting poverty, and making higher education more affordable.
“The critical way to take action on these issues is if we get young people to show up at the polls,” Jermer said.
NJPIRG has formed a coalition of student groups to turn out the vote since the 1980s, said Jermer, a Rutgers Business School senior. In the past three years their vote coalition has registered more than 20,000 Rutgers students, he said.
“I’m hoping the event will prepare organization for the fall, where voter engagement will be huge,” he said.
The goal of this event is to inspire administration to take action on voter engagement programs at the University, he said. The University should send out an all campus email directing students to StudentVote.org, a tool where student can register to vote online, Jermer said.
They should encourage voter registration on move-in day, orientation and floor meetings in residence halls, he said, as well as encourage door-to-door voter registration in the student residences.
Jermer said Rutgers is currently ranked as the most politically disengaged school in the country.
"But these common sense initiatives will change that when more students have the opportunity to get involved in the elections,” he said. “Student reactions have been nothing but great and exciting."
Everyone is talking about the elections this year, he said,
“It is important that organizations take a lead and encourage their members to get involved," he said. “In a time with so much polarization and tension, the College Republicans and College Democrats came together and put aside their differences to take action on one goal, which is to raise our voices."
John Bingham, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, is the president of the College Democrats of New Jersey and decided along with the executive board to focus on increasing this generation’s involvement in the political process, he said.
This year our generation’s number of those eligible to vote will be roughly the same size as the “baby boom” generation, Bingham said.
In 2012, there were 5,271,837 registered voters in New Jersey, according to The Guardian. Only 3,374,407 voted in the presidential election. A little over one million were registered as Democrats, while 1,719,729 were registered as Republican.
In the presidential election, 1,960,744 people voted Democratic in New Jersey, while 1,383,233 voted Republican, according to Politico.
“I hope to bring awareness. Our generation has a voice and I want to educate students on their ability to influence government, whether it be federal or local,” Bingham said. “Students have a unique voice in the concerns of everyone."
A student can understand the problems of the contemporary and the future, Bingham said.
“My favorite part of this event was seeing Democrats and Republicans unite in working to give everyone in our generation a chance to register and become politically active,” he said.
Bingham has seen these organizations do voter registration in the past, he said, and hoped to see these groups work together to unite this generation and come together in the political process, he said.
“The leaders of these clubs at Rutgers University have done a remarkable job of setting up and getting the work done,” Bingham said.
Jessica Herring is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in English. She is a staff writer at The Daily Targum. She can be found on Twitter @Jesslindsey93.