INPIRG helps register students
Dozens of registered Monroe County voters entered the Curry Building a little before 9 a.m. Tuesday to cast their ballot during early voting.
A man wearing his paint-splattered work clothes walked out of the voting room. He had his “I voted today” sticker on. He was happy to not have waited in the long lines, which are typical on Election Day.
Several elderly couples exited the building proudly wearing their stickers after voting during the first day of early voting. However, a middle-aged woman specifically asked for her sticker.
“That is the most important part,” she said jokingly.
IU senior Faith Nebergall entered the West Seventh Street building with a different purpose – to turn in IU students’ voter registration forms.
Tuesday morning, she had 42 forms. Every completed registration form counts. After this stack was turned in, Indiana Public Interest Research Group had 140 more forms to reach their goal of registering 2,100 students who are exercising their right to vote and voice their opinions.
By the voter registration deadline of 8 p.m., INPIRG registered 2,112 total forms with 349 students registering on the final day.
Since September, Nebergall has been working to register IU students as part of INPIRG’s New Voters Project.
INPIRG has been sponsoring voter registration drives around campus and delivering the forms to the Voter Registration Office every day for the past two to three weeks. But, since Tuesday was the voter registration deadline, they made more than one trip.
“I have completed voter registration forms,” Nebergall said to the clerk. “42 today to be exact. Someone will be here later to turn in more.”
“Great. What group is this?” the clerk asked.
“Yours are always perfect.”
“We check them before we turn them in,” she said, laughing.
The Voter Registration Office in the Curry Building mails the forms for INPIRG and makes sure they are legible. But before Nebergall turns in the forms, she makes sure to put the new voters’ phone numbers and email addresses to contact before the election.
Nebergall wasn’t old enough to vote in the 2008 presidential election. However, on Nov. 6, the INPIRG chapter chair will change that when she votes in the 2012 presidential election.
Volunteers like Nebergall have been outside Herman B Wells Library and Sample Gates every day registering voters. As the deadline approached, they began having daily voter registration events in mid-September.
Because INPIRG is a nonpartisan organization, they aren’t promoting any candidate. They are simply making sure every student has the opportunity to vote.
On Tuesday, the voter’s registration deadline, Nebergall handed out and collected voter registration forms in all of her classes, part of the last minute push to get students registered to vote.
Before her afternoon political science class, Nebergall asked her professor if she could make a final push announcement to her classmates. Her professor agreed.
“Hi, I’m Faith and I am from INPIRG,” she said. “Today is the last day to register to vote.”
No one asked for a registration form so Nebergall asked how many people have in fact registered – all but a couple hands shot up.
The Monroe County Clerk extended the registration office’s Tuesday hours to collect these forms from volunteers like Nebergall.
“We have been getting most of the voter registrations and I think it has mostly to do with the idea that we are really present on campus,” Nebergall said.
Nebergall canvassed with clipboards outside campus buildings to get more students registered. She hoped passing students would slow down and listen.
“Hey, do you need to register to vote?” she asked.
Students would either stop to register or continue walking saying phrases like, “I am already registered.” Nebergall said it is important for the volunteers to ask if the student is registered in Monroe County or at home.
Students are less likely to actually vote with an absentee ballot.
“I think it is an advantage to us that we are nonpartisan and nonprofit because when people see Obama for America or Young Republicans, if they aren’t affiliated or aren’t voting for that candidate, they usually don’t stop,” Nebergall said.
INPIRG works with these organizations to cover as many places on campus as possible. Nebergall communicates with them to see where they will be at certain days and times. The organizations find it most successful to be in different spots to get the most people.
“It is not a competition,” Nebergall said. “We want to help everyone to register voters.”
For each canvassing, INPIRG requires 24 volunteer hours. 24 people can each volunteer for one hour or this can be divided among fewer people. Nebergall said every time there are usually 12 to 15 volunteers.
They are always looking for more volunteers. While the volunteers register new voters, they have been talking to people who seem really interested and get them signed up to volunteer.
“The way to get the most voter registration forms is to have the most volunteers out there,” Nebergall said.
Now that the registration deadline has passed, Nebergall and the volunteers will work to ensure that the new voters use their vote. The main purpose of the project is for the registering students to actually vote on Election Day.
As chapter chair, Nebergall gets to decide what campaigns the chapter is running and what the agenda is.
“I knew right away that being a political nonprofit that registering students to vote was going to be our main priority for the semester,” she said.
The chapter’s next initiative is to get these registered voters out to the polls.
Campus will be plastered with posters reminding these registered students to vote and the chapter will be doing a phone bank during the days preceding the election as a reminder to vote.
While the volunteers log the registrations into the database, they save the student’s email addresses and cell phone numbers before turning in the registration forms to the registrar in Bloomington.
Students’ votes are definitely important especially during this election in particular, Nebergall said.
“Things are so polarized right now and things are going to be so close and Indiana is somewhat of a swing state, so it is really important to us to get kids registered,” she said. “Also, getting them registered here.”
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