Ahead of the upcoming Illinois primary elections, Loyola students registered to vote last week in the “Fall in Love with Voting” campaign put on by Loyola University Chicago Libraries.
The event was held from 11-2 p.m. Feb. 13-14, with one table in Lewis Library in the Corboy Law Center at the Water Tower Campus and one in Klarcheck Information Commons at the Lake Shore Campus.
Participants were provided with resources to register, check their status and sign up to get an absentee ballot.
Voters can register to vote up until and on the day of the election, March 20.
Of the students who stopped by the tables, 40 people registered at the event, according to Katherine Paterson, cataloging assistant for Loyola’s library and a member of the Loyola Libraries PR Committee.
Ten people registered for absentee ballots or requested a vote-by-mail ballot and at least 20 students verified their voters registration status.
The campaign was part of a larger initiative called “Loyola Votes 2018,” a program sponsored by the library which provides information and events to engage students in upcoming elections.
The most notable 2018 elections in Illinois are for spots in the U.S. House of Representatives and for the positions of governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.
John Frendreis, a professor of political science at Loyola, stressed the importance of this year’s midterm elections.
“Midterm elections are nearly as important as elections that occur in the presidential year,” Frendreis said. “If the Democrats were to gain control, particularly in the House of Representatives, it would dramatically change the kinds of laws that Congress would pass.”
According to Frendreis, Republicans could lose seats in the upcoming midterm election, but it’s unknown if they’ll lose enough seats for the Democrats to gain control.
Frendreis also noted the importance of municipal elections as much of the legislation that directly affects people’s lives comes from the state and local level.
Volunteers from the League of Women Voters (LWV) were present both days of the campaign, along with members of Loyola’s library, to help register students and encourage them to vote in the upcoming primary elections.
The LWV is a Chicago-based, nonpartisan political advocacy group. The organization educates communities on political issues through unbiased resources and works at a higher level in support of policy in the public’s interest, according to its website.
Diana White, a current volunteer with LWV and the former executive director of LAF (formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, which provides legal support to poor and marginalized individuals) was at the event.
White said LWV holds voting registration events at colleges, community colleges and high schools throughout Chicago and she said she foresees a continued partnership with Loyola in registering student voters.
“It’s all about getting people registered to vote and getting people out to the polls on election day,” White said. “There is nothing more important in the country at this point than [that] the citizenry expresses opinions and have those opinions listened to.”
White said outreach is important for college students because many students don’t know how to register or realize how easy it is.
An estimated 23.7 million young voters (ages 18-29) voted in the 2016 presidential election — 50 percent of U.S. citizens in that age group, according to an election day report from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).
Though low, the youth voter turnout in 2016 represents an improvement from the 2014 midterm elections, CIRCLE reported. Only 19.9 percent of young voters in the United States cast a ballot in 2014 elections.
According to Frendreis, it’s common to see higher youth participation in presidential election years, and with the exception of 2016, young people have been turning out to vote at decreasing rates.
Frendreis expects this year’s midterm elections to be much higher in young voter participation over the last midterm in 2014.
Lauren Finnegan, a sophomore nursing major, registered to vote at the table in Lewis Library.
Finnegan said she decided to register because she didn’t vote in the 2016 presidential election and has since realized how important it is for her to exercise that right.
“I wish that I had had that knowledge before the presidential election in 2016, but it’s something that I came to learn more after … I realized how the election can influence my life and other people’s lives and people that I care about,” Finnegan said.
The 19-year-old added that Loyola’s political advocacy and encouragement of student activism is how she came to know more about the 2016 election in the first place.
“Coming into college, I learned so much more information just because of the setting and the way the professors talk about it, my peers, everything like that,” Finnegan said. “It definitely makes me more aware of what’s going on and more [eager] to engage.”
Natalia Gardocki, a senior environmental science major, voted in the 2016 presidential election and said the 2016 election affected her peers in impactful ways.
“I feel like as a generation we are feeling kind of down, not as hopeful for the future with the current administration,” Gardocki said. “If more of us registered to vote in the next election we can definitely bring about a change.”
Gardocki also said she noticed last week’s voting campaign when it occurred on campus, but didn’t see much information about it prior to the event and felt like it could have been publicized better.
Loyola’s libraries have put on similar events in the past, such as a presidential voter registration event in 2016 and a number of workshops, according to Paterson. She also said this is the first time a voting event has taken place at both campuses and that there are plans for continued events and workshops this coming fall.
Early voting for the primary election runs March 5-19. March 20 is the final day voters can cast ballots. All Illinois polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.