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Campus groups encourage youth vote at UPenn

Penn Leads the Vote hung banners around the school to encourage students to vote. (Katrina Machetta/YJI)

PHILADELPHIA – As the nation prepares for tomorrow’s midterm elections, young, first-time voters seek to make informed decisions about when, where, and why they should vote a certain way.

At the University of Pennsylvania, where roughly 20 percent of the student population comes from Pennsylvania, campus political groups have different views on what is best for voters.

“In such a competitive state like Pennsylvania, every single vote matters. We want and need students to make their voices heard to ensure that our needs as a generation aren’t swept under the rug,” said Coby Rich, a UPenn junior and Campus Mobilization Committee Chair for Penn Democrats. “We are out on the street, making phone calls and educating voters as best we can to make sure everyone votes and shows what they value in society.”

For the last two months, Penn Democrats and Penn Leads the Vote – a student-run, non-partisan voter engagement organization – have been determined to register and inform as many students as possible about the upcoming election. They’ve set up booths in and around campus and are passing out flyers, approaching students in-between classes and reaching out via social media and other student channels to reach diverse student audiences across campus.

According to a Penn Democrats Club social media post, Penn Democrats registered 615 student voters in Pennsylvania, the most of any college democratic organizations in the state.

“It is important for Penn students to get involved in and understand Pennsylvania and Philadelphia politics because they will be residents of Philadelphia for at least four years,” said Nicholas Williams, Director of Penn Leads the Vote.

Volunteers in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party hung political door hangers on every dorm handle to encourage students to go out and vote. (Katrina Machetta/YJI)

The main political groups on campus include Penn Democrats, Penn Republicans, Penn Leads the Vote, Young Democratic Socialists of America and Penn for Liberty. All of these represent different political beliefs, but have played a role in getting students involved and engaged in the upcoming election.

To encourage students to get involved, these organizations invited Pennsylvania candidates and their campaigns to come out and speak with students about their priorities, values and the importance of their vote.

“It is important to get involved because, as young people, we should make sure that we are all represented,” said Rissa Howard, first-time voter and freshman at UPenn. “I am so excited to be a first-time voter, and I cannot wait to finally get my voice heard and be an active participant in our democracy.”

The university set up several polling locations near campus for the convenience of students, faculty, and nearby residents on Election Day. Although no early voting locations are available on campus, students can find the nearest early voting location on local or state websites.

“Voting is a right and a privilege that has been fought for by generations of Americans,” said UPenn sophomore Luke Castellini, who identifies as Republican. “One should not take this right for granted. It is important to participate in our democracy to keep it moving forward.”

For questions about Pennsylvania or Philadelphia politics, students can refer to the websites of the political groups on campus, which include helpful resources such as voting guides, general voting, and election questions and a wealth of information that first-time voters should know when going to the polls.

“For those who are considering not voting, we encourage them to think of voting as a civic duty that is done to benefit your local community,” Williams said. “It is also shown that voting and being civically engaged starting at a young age makes adults more likely to remain civically engaged as they age, so establishing good voting habits now makes students more likely to vote in the future.”

Katrina Machetta is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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