According to an article by NPR, young voters (millennials and Gen Z) make up about 47% of this year’s voting population. USF Votes is an initiative that aims to register and educate students on voting. Since its creation in 2017, USF Votes has reached a milestone, officially registering 10,000 new voters.
The initiative was created by Angeline Vuong, assistant director for public service programs at the Leo T. McCarthy Center. Vuong, along with David Donahue, former director of the McCarthy Center, saw that during the 2016 presidential election, 76.7% of eligible USF students registered to vote, but only 54.6% of eligible students actually voted, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. The disparity between these numbers led to the creation of USF Votes.
“The discrepancy really led to the impetus for USF Votes and the idea that you can’t complain if you don’t vote,” Donahue said. “We need to get people registered, educated, and then showing up to vote.”
USF Votes works with an external partner, the Andrew Goodman Foundation, which helps to provide resources, training, as well as funding for an Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Campus team. The team is an extension of the Andrew Goodman Foundation that partners with universities around the country to register college students to vote. Amaya Fox, an Andrew Goodman Foundation ambassador, and team lead Ariana Robert Martinez help to organize and lead voter registration events, as well as tabling at major campus events, sometimes bringing in outside organizations to talk to students.
According to Fox, a senior politics major, the 10,000 voters milestone is a product of years of hard work.
“Our team has worked tirelessly to not only register our peers to vote, but also to build a culture of civic engagement at USF,” Fox said. “Looking towards the future, I know that our team will continue to show up at every student event and register students to vote, as well as answer questions about voting in general.“
Since its creation, USF Votes has grown from a team of three — composed of Vuong, Fox, and Martinez — to more than 10 people, each in charge of several different aspects of the initiative.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far to institutionalize voter engagement at USF and as I finish my last year I have no doubt USF Votes’ presence on campus will only continue to grow,“ Martinez said in an email to the Foghorn.
For Vuong, registering voters is just the beginning of the initiative. She said she believes there needs to be a follow-through as well.
“It’s great that there are 10,000 people registered, but that’s only the first part of it. You have to register to vote, and then you have to make sure that you’re registered, [and] make sure that your registration is updated,” Vuong said. “So many times people say that they’re registered, but they didn’t sign the form or they didn’t request their mail-in ballot, and then they go to the polls, and they are not on the lists. There’s a lot more. It’s not just up to us at USF Votes, it’s up to the entire university.”
Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the McCarthy Center has worked in partnership with Gleeson Library, the admissions office, Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE), GO (Get Oriented) Team, faculty, professors, students, Student Leadership and Engagement (SLE), Culturally-Focused Clubs Council, Greek Council, athletics, and living-learning communities, as well as several other clubs and organizations on campus. Vuong describes this collaboration as being the product of an “all hands on deck mindset,” urging students to get out and vote.
“Young people are the largest voting electorate this country has ever seen this year. It doesn’t make sense to kind of sit on the sidelines thinking that you don’t have a voice. Your voice is the power in voting,” Vuong said. “This country has made such a huge effort to remind young people that you can’t really make a difference, you can’t really change anything. But it’s important for USF students to understand why you go to this school, if not to exercise these rights, to do something to make an impact for yourself and for your communities.” If you have any questions about voting and registration or would like to check your voter registration status, you can reach out to USF Votes on Instagram (@usfvotes) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), as well as through this link (bit.ly/usfvotes) to make sure you are prepared for this November’s election.