Rocio Hernandez /Nevada Sagebrush
Students gather on the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center lawn on Tuesday, Sept. 23 to sign up for TurboVote, a website designed to streamline voting registration. Despite the smoke-filled air, students took the time to register for the upcoming election.
By Maddison Cervantes
Students throughout the University of Nevada, Reno milled about the lawn in front of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center last Tuesday evening for the university’s second Rock The Vote.
Rock The Vote was designed to encourage civil and political engagement throughout campus, and to get students interested in registering to vote, Jessica Salsman, assistant director of legislative affairs, stated. The event was made possible by TurboVote, a website designed to make registering and voting an easier process.
According to Salsman, despite the two-hour run time, the event proved to be an immense success for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada.
The event was specifically created to inspire students to get involved with elections throughout the Reno community, said Caden Fabbi, speaker of senate.
“This was an event to get students to sign up for something that would be useful for themselves, and the whole society,” Fabbi said.
Students interested in the political spectrum lined up and registered to vote using an iPad, laptop or smartphone at unr. turbovote.org.
Freshman Kirstyn Porter learned of Rock The Vote from a poster hanging in her residence hall, and found herself influenced by ASUN’s effort at politically engaging students.
“I think that what we are voting for affects us directly, especially as young people, so it’s really important that you make your voice and your opinions heard,” Porter said. “This will be a good way to do that.”
Salsman stated that the coordinators purposely organized the event in a manner that comes across as a social event, in order to raise the curiosity of students.
“We try to approach our events in a way that shows that voting is cool, that’s why we have free food, music and entertainment,” Salsman said. “We want students to see that becoming politically engaged by registering to vote is super simple and it can be a fun process.”
ASUN provided food trucks at the event such as BoDawgs and Lazy Sundae. In order to further encourage participation, those who signed up were able to get a free hot dog or anything off Lazy Sundae’s menu.
Junior Cameron Meals said that while walking to class, he noticed the option for free food and stopped.
“I actually registered (to vote) a few weeks ago, and put down the wrong address, so it worked out good,” Meals said.
Meals said that he has recently become interested in more involved in voting now that he has learned of TurboVote’s notifications, he believes it will be a beneficial resource for students.
“For other students, obviously the food trucks caught their attention,” Fabbi said. “But I’m okay with that, because if free food is what it takes to get students to sign up for a program that will encourage and remind them to vote in this year’s elections, then so be it.”
An array of other features ranging from food to entertainment kept students interested and engaged throughout the event.
The words, “What does democracy mean to you?” were scripted against a giant chalkboard titled “Democracy Plaza” displayed on the grass in front of the Knowledge Center. According to Salsman, the purpose of the chalkboard was to inspire students to gather their opinion on the word, and then write it on the board. This year, the chosen question received answers such as “the Second Amendment,” “freedom” and “patriotism.”
“I believe that gun ownership, protected by the Second Amendment, is vital to a democracy as it allows the people to stay in control and protects us from an over reaching government,” Sen. Ryan Hood, who was responsible for the “Second Amendment” written on the board, said.
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell was one of the participants who contributed to the event with a speech directed toward students on the significance of being politically involved.
Several of the university’s clubs and organizations including Mi Familia Vota, Biggest Little Excuse, College Republicans and Wolf Pack Radio each had tables at the event. Fabbi stated that this tabling technique was also a method of engagement, being that students were able to involve themselves in a more relatable way.
Many students in attendance were previously registered to vote, but opted to do so again on TurboVote in order to receive the notifications the website provides with times and locations for voting. These notifications are sent to registered students via text message.
With these additional sign-ups, Rock The Vote concluded with over 200 new student registrations total. Salsman stated that the event was successful due to the fact that ASUN approached it in a non-forceful way.
“We want students to yearn to know more and to become involved,” Salsman said. “By making registering something fun by offering incentives, students are more likely to participate.”
Maddison Cervantes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.