Campus organizations encourage civic engagement among students

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This article was originally published by The East Carolinian at East Carolina University and is republished here as part of the One Vote North Carolina student media collaboration. Copyright by The East Carolinian

Campus political organizations at East Carolina University will continue to work to encourage student voting as the 2020 presidential election approaches and have now incorporated virtual webinars and gatherings in an effort to gain civic engagement.

The ECU Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) Assistant Director Alex Dennis said the voter registration and engagement processes will be different this year due to the lack of large tabling events on campus. He said CLCE has a team of students who plan to walk around campus in an effort to engage one-on-one with students.

The coronavirus pandemic has worried some, but it also allows an opportunity to research candidates and explore important issues, according to Dennis. He said everyone’s vote matters when it comes to elections, both locally and nationally, and when done at a young age it can become a habit.

“That’s kind of what we’re trying to create is that habit of being involved in our democracy and voicing your opinion and really caring about, you know, who you’re voting for and what you’re voting for,” Dennis said.

Registration processes may look different this year during the pandemic, according to Dennis. He said CLCE is trying to share as much information and knowledge as possible with the student body. They want to give students the opportunity to make a decision about how to go about voting and what option best suits them.

The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) Team Leader Amrina Rangar, who works with the foundation to organize events on ECU’s campus, said AGF is a foundation that is partnered with CLCE. She said AGF works to lift voting barriers and encourage the youth vote.

There were some on campus events planned for this semester, but over the summer, AGF tried to figure out how to make those events virtual, according to Rangar. She said the foundation plans to use social media, such as Instagram Live and videos, to answer any common election questions students may have.

“Our Pirate’s Vote Team has kind of come up with this plan where we send registration kits and common questions and absentee ballot requests to each residence hall,” Rangar said. “They should be getting those things in soon.”

Rangar said she encourages students to research and go to as many non-biased sources as much as possible to compare and contrast the views of each candidate. She said it is important for students to note what they think is important to each candidate they look into.

NextGen North Carolina is a part of a national organization, NextGen America, and has campus organizers who work with ECU students for engagement. Rachel Weber, NextGen North Carolina’s press secretary, said NextGen has been 100% digital since March and has worked closely with ECU students and community groups.

“We’ve really been working just to get education and resources into the hands of young voters about how to cast their vote, how to register, how to vote safely and securely this fall,” Weber said.

NextGen’s focus over the next few months is to make sure ECU students know how to vote and cast their ballot, whether that consists of an absentee ballot request, early voting or a plan for election day, according to Weber. She said there will be virtual events held such as debate watch parties and voter education sessions.

Weber said she encourages young people to make a plan for election day as soon as possible. She said it is important for students to research, look to see how they have been personally affected by COVID-19 and find what they are looking for in the presidential candidates.

“Interestingly, I think even amid the pandemic, we’re seeing that civic engagement and attention to politics in the U.S. is at an all time high among young people,” Weber said.

NextGen’s Greenville field organizer Dustin Queen hosted a Zoom webinar on Friday to feature voter registration, early voting and absentee ballots.

Queen said, due to difficult circumstances and uncertainty triggered by COVID-19, it is important for young people to have the information they need to vote safely and securely this fall.

Information on Future NextGen events is located on the NextGen North Carolina website. Information on voter registration and processes is located on the ECUnited website.