As voter registration deadlines approach in Memphis, University of Memphis organizations plan to host events to promote the importance of voting to students.
Eric Groenendyk, a political science professor at the U of M, said voter turnouts for young people, like college students, are usually low.
“This is often because young people are unregistered, don’t not know how to vote or have not developed an interest in politics,” Groenendyk said. “Once people start to vote, it tends to become a habitual act.”
Groenendyk said college student turnouts could have a strong impact on the polls.
“Efforts to get college students interested in politics and help them to overcome barriers to turnout can, therefore, have a large effect, especially over the long term,” Groenendyk said. “Since turnout tends to be much lower in midterm elections, a high turnout among young people would be even more consequential this year.”
The Epsilon Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) at the U of M hosted a tabling event to help students register to vote.
Kyra Collins, the chairman of the connection committee for AKA and president of the NAACP chapter at the U of M, said the purpose of the table was to target unregistered voters, who are likely freshmen.
“I know in the fall semester, we have a large incoming crowd of freshmen,” Collins said. “I know a lot of freshmen are not registered to vote, and I feel like a table where we could face-to-face interact would be better.”
Collins said the tabling idea came from wanting to encourage people to exercise their civil right of voting.
“It’s a right that we’re given as citizens,” Collins said. “We should exercise that right to vote because the votes in elections determine our future.”
The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the U of M joined the Student Government Association to host an exhibit about the history of voting rights for black people.
Daphene McFerren said Hooks Institute noticed SGA was trying to get students to vote as well, and the two organizations decided to host an exhibit together. She said the exhibit will honor the Fayette County Civil Rights Movement, a campaign that began in 1959 to encourage black people to vote.
“Next year is the 60th anniversary of that,” McFerren said. “We also have elections this fall, and it’s important that people register to vote.”
McFerren said the exhibit is supposed to show how difficult it was for black people to register to vote.
“There are two goals,” McFerren said. “One to provide historical education and secondly to inspire this generation to register and go to the polls.”
Antonio Scott, vice president of SGA, said the exhibit should encourage citizens to be more active in the community.
“We want to help build civically responsible citizens who contribute to positive social change in the community and participate in local, state and federal elections,” Scott said. “We’re a university that prides itself on being ‘driven by doing.’ In this case, the action is voting and being responsible citizens who take their civic duties serious.”
Scott said SGA is hoping to bring more attention to voting and the issues that surround it. SGA organized an entire month dedicated to voter registration, including movie screenings and a Voterpalooza with Hargett as a guest.
“We’re hoping for an increased awareness of not only candidates running for office but also an understanding of the historical perspective of voting and the issues that are facing the U of M and Greater Memphis communities,” Scott said.
The exhibit will be in the Ned R. McWherter Library from Sept. 18 to Nov. 12. Voter registration week at the U of M will be Sept. 18 through 25.
Ellen Edge, a member Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, helps students register to vote for local and national elections. From left to right, Jerrica Henderson, Raven Copeland and Kyra Collins were a few students who took the initiative to register.