On Sept. 24, Pacific University celebrated National Voter Registration Day. Pacific Votes, a program on campus whose goal is to aide students in practicing their democratic right to vote, organized the event sponsored by the McCall Center for Civic Engagement.
Pacific Votes set up a table in the University Center (UC) this year, and throughout the duration of the day 40 volunteers helped students register to vote.
Over 100 students participated in the event, either registering to vote on the spot, or taking home resources to help with the process later. Morgan Knapp, Program Coordinator for the McCall Center, explains the reason for the student turnout is likely the upcoming 2020 election. “Participation in things like voter registration this year are both indicative of interest in this election and coming elections,” she said.
With high registration and voting rates on campus, Pacific University is on a nationwide list for Best-Campuses-For-Voting, according to Knapp. The number of students that participated in the event makes for an “average year,” yet she is pleased with the turnout since Pacific already has high registration and voting rates on campus.
“We’re not necessarily tracking down students to get them to register,” Knapp said. “We’re helping them understand that they need to make sure to have their correct address on file and that they have a choice in the state of Oregon whether they want to vote in Oregon or in their home state.”
Following National Voter Registration Day, the McCall Center returned all of the physical applications completed by students to the elections board office located in nearby Beaverton. Students who chose to fill out the physical application can expect confirmation by mail that their registration is correct or if anything needs to be changed or confirmed.
Students who filled out the physical application can also expect a Voter Guide to be mailed to them. But for students who did not participate on National Voter Registration Day, the McCall Center has plenty of voter guides to distribute around campus.
While voting can feel like an overwhelming task, especially for the many first-time voters that begin attending Pacific each year, the McCall Center works hard to break any stigma surrounding the democratic right.
“It’s our responsibility,” Knapp said, “to make sure the information is easily available, and to recognize that things like National Voter Registration Day happen.”
Knapp also doesn’t want students to feel discouraged from voting. “I think that students feel that if they’re not fully informed, they are not allowed to vote, and I think that’s not fair,” she said.
In order to ensure students feel comfortable and informed about voting, the McCall Center has many activities to educate Pacific students throughout the year. On Halloween, the center celebrates its annual ‘Make Voting Less Scary’ event, where students can expect to trick-or-treat for all the materials necessary to cast their vote. The Center also organizes a Walk to the Ballot Box event every November, where signs from the center of campus guide students to the ballot box located at the Forest Grove Public Library.
However students choose to get involved with the upcoming elections, Knapp urges they cast their vote no matter what.
“Pacific students do vote,” Knapp said. “We want to recognize that fact and also make sure that incoming students know that’s a part of our culture here and can easily get involved.”
For in-state voters who still need to register, paper applications are available in the McCall Center and online applications can be filled out at oregonvotes.gov. Out-of-state students can locate the voting website for their home states at usa.gov/absentee-voting. To complete the application, students will need their address, mailing address, driver’s license / ID number and the last four digits of their social security number.
While not legal in all states, students in Oregon can also choose to cast their vote in the state of Oregon as opposed to their home state. “We are lucky in that students here are given, essentially, a hundred percent opportunity to decide where they want their vote to count,” Knapp said.
Students needing any help in this process can visit pacificu.edu/pacificvotes, and students are welcome to visit the McCall Center, located in Scott Hall, for any further questions.
With the Oregon registration deadline, Oct. 15, approaching quickly, the center is working hard to ensure students have the necessary information to vote.