Getting Ready To Vote
Cassandra Matthews ~ Assistant Editor
Students at the University of Lynchburg are busy preparing for the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 3.
Josie Laprad, a sophomore, is the communications intern for the Center for Community Engagement. She has been hard at work getting students ready to vote by hosting a voter registration drive on campus that will occur from Oct. 5 through Oct. 9, as well as watch parties for the presidential debates and VP debates.
She said, “I can tell you just about anything you need to know about your rights as a voter, how to register, where you can register, where you cannot register, how to fill out the ballots, [and] how to request absentee.”
Laprad also said, “Next week we will have a table outside of Drysdale, and there will be people there with paper registrations, and also QR codes that you can scan on your phone to register online, and also get your absentee ballots online, and basically you can stop by the table and register to vote. […] At the end of the week I will be taking all of the paper registrations to the registrar. An important thing about [this] week though is that it is the last week that you can register to vote. The deadline is [October 12th].”
She noted that registering to vote will take “two minutes tops,” and voters will need their social security number and driver’s license.
Laprad said, “Voting [is] important because it is your way of direct communication with your representatives. By voting in an election, for the candidate you believe is the best candidate, you are directly impacting policies that will be enacted in the future. And that is so powerful, and so unique, and it is an honor […]. Growing up [as] an American citizen, we kind of forget that, and how unique it is, and how much of an honor it is […]. I remember going with my parents and my grandparents when they voted and getting their sticker and being able to wear it, and it was really cool, but at the same time it just really normalized it, so it became a not important thing to me until I started to get more into politics, and [I realized] that people can ignore emails. They can ignore phone calls. They cannot ignore when their job is on the line. So you get to pick. You have a say. And you need to use that.”
This is the first time that junior student Rebecca Parks will be voting. “I am looking forward to making sure that my vote and my opinions are counted during this election, and I am happy to encourage my friends [and] for all of us to do it together […]. [Growing up], you hear a lot of people say, oh, my vote does not matter, but if every single person says that, then yeah, the votes are not going to matter, but if each of us as individuals gets out and votes for what we believe in, then we can make a change.”
“In 2016, millennials and Gen Z made up the majority of the electorate. They are the majority of the population. However, they made up maybe a quarter of the total people who voted,” Laprad said. “And that is our generation, and that is who I am trying to get to now. They obviously are feeling very discouraged, and I think a lot of that comes from being told when we were younger that we were too young to know what is happening, we do not understand, and so now it is not an important thing, [and] we do not feel like we have the voice to be able to say anything. […] I hope to change that mindset. I hope to empower people to utilize that right because you are smart enough to be able to vote.”
Laprad explained that she does not find it necessary that voters know everything about politics in order to vote. She said, “There are a multitude of different ways to determine how you are going to vote. And one of those ways is picking an issue that you are very passionate about. For me, that is social issues, and climate change. And those are two things that are very, very important to me, and I look to those issues first to see if I agree with a candidate on those issues. Another thing that is important to me is personality. I look for somebody who is diplomatic, and who is kind, will listen, is respectful. So, you do not have to know everything about politics, you do not have to agree with everything a candidate says and does. In fact, you should not, because they are a different person than you, and everybody’s opinion is different, everybody’s experiences are different, but [it is] all about picking a person you believe in […] Even the candidate does not know everything about all of the political issues that they are going to be asked about. They are prepped and given notes to go off of, because they have other people who understand and are able to explain these issues to them. Voters do not have that luxury. So that means we have to pick our issues, stick with them, and judge [the] character of the candidates. Do not pressure yourself to know everything about politics to be engaged in it.”
Parks said, “I am still trying to learn more, but I do know who I want to vote for.” She recognizes that it is important to vote not only with yourself in mind, but keeping in mind the well-being of others. She said, “In the past, I was privileged to say that I did not care about politics as much, [but] now I see that it is my duty to become interested, because there are other people who are very much impacted by the decisions of this election.”
The university is hosting a multitude of activities to ensure students understand their voting rights and the candidates platforms. She said, “I think that [it] would be really beneficial to come together and just watch it as a group and instead of watching it alone.”
“What we are really trying to do is utilize that as an opportunity for students to get together on campus,” explained Laprad. “It is a way to socially distance ourselves while also being together, and it ties in with voting, so we are able to promote voting there. […] So it is a way for all of us to come together to learn more about what is happening in our country and prepare ourselves to vote. Also it is just fun, [I] had a great time sitting with my friends watching the debate and completely roasting both candidates. […] It is just so much fun and it is an easy way to get informed.”