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UM voter registration drive today

By Margot Pera
On October 2, 2012

Students not registered to vote in this year's election aren't silenced just yet.
The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change will sponsor a voter registration drive today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students may spot the tables set up at five locations on campus - the Central Avenue crosswalk, the corner of Patterson Street and Walker Avenue, the corner of Patterson Street and Central Avenue, the Student Plaza and the University Center atrium.
Cortney Richardson, a U of M alumnus and minister at Saint Paul Baptist Church in Whitehaven, along with other student organizations including Empowered Men of Color, Alpha Kappa Alpha, the NAACP and Kappa Alpha Psi have teamed up to set out tables to inform students about important issues in this year's election and register them to vote.
The Hooks Institute wants to increase voting among 18- to 29-year-olds, after a Gallup poll released in July stated that 58 percent of young people are "definitely likely to vote."
"College students will definitely be affected by this year's election," Julie Graves, assistant director for the Hooks Institute, said. "Some of the things they should be concerned with are whether or not Pell Grants will be available and affordability of healthcare. If Pell Grants are gone, a great number of students will not be able to attend college."
Enthusiasm for this year's election is not as prevalent among young voters as it was in 2008, most likely because college graduates are unable to find jobs, Graves said.  One of the missions of the voter registration drive is to educate students on how voting laws affect them.
"I think that U of M students are pretty enthusiastic about this year's election," Richardson said. "Last year there was more of a turnout because of all the hype surrounding Barack Obama being the first African-American presidential nominee."
Some students at the University are already registered to vote and  are well informed about the issues.
Kayla Stringer, a Spanish major, is a registered voter. She said voting is important because "you cannot have an opinion if you don't."  She said the amount of loans and Pell grants are an issue no matter what election year we are in.
Graves said "the process of going to vote is valuable for first-time voters."  
"Adults are informed because they have lived through the issues. It may be difficult for a student living at home to understand certain things they might not be affected by," she said.
The Hooks Institute's mission is to promote civil rights and social change. The Institute hopes to generate more interest in their affairs through the voting drive.
"I think this drive is the Ben Hooks thing to do," Richardson said.
Richardson said the University has a responsibility to inform students of all the issues.
"I think any decision made in ignorance is definitely not good," he said, "but people need to vote even if they know a little. There is always going to be someone who knows more or less than you."
Students who are unable to attend the voter registration drive still have time to register - the deadline in Tennessee is Oct. 8.

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