In its latest attempt to increase student civic engagement, Loyola libraries hosted a “Voting 101” event Monday in the Damen Student Center Den, which featured speakers and resources for students to register to vote, but student turnout was low.
Loyola administrators and guests involved in civic engagement aimed to inform students on how to register to vote, the voting process and the importance of voting on Election Day.
Since August, “Loyola Votes 2018,” an initiative by Loyola libraries to increase voter registration, has hosted a number of voting events for students. Most recently, students registered to vote as they picked up CTA U-Passes in August. Vivian Mikhail, who’s been helping coordinate the “Loyola Votes” events, noted the success of the U-Pass event.
“[The U-pass distribution] was the first time we were doing this unified effort, and nobody really knew how it was going to go … and it was wildly successful,” Mikhail said.
Based on the success at the U-Pass distribution event, which registered approximately 500 students online and in-mail, event coordinators anticipated a greater student turnout at Monday’s event than was seen, according to Mikhail.
Mikhail said she thinks there were many factors that played into why so few students attended.
“I think that people probably assume that they already know how to vote,” Mikhail said. “Another [reason] could be the day and time. It was on a Monday, right in between class time …. Maybe we just needed to do a better job of promoting it.”
While few students showed up, the speakers addressed those in the audience. Geoff Swindells, associate dean of Loyola libraries, spoke about the importance of libraries as a resource for students looking to become more informed about government and their civic duties.
“The library is one of those places where people can find out about what different candidates’ stands are, what that office that they’re voting for does … We’re really about informing the student body for democracy,” Swindells said.
Mark Mesle, outreach director for the Cook County clerk’s office, explained how and where students can register to vote and emphasized the importance of voting. Mesle said he’s worked with Loyola on various voter registration events and has recruited students to work with the clerk’s office on Election Day since 2008.
“The people that we vote into office not just impact us, but impact our communities,” Mesle said. “I think that there’s a great recognition [among students] that … everyone around you is affected by how you vote or how you don’t vote.”
Mario Guerrero, a junior studying sociology and economics, and a senator in the Justice Committee of Student Government of Loyola Chicago, also spoke at the event. He said he hoped providing a student voice at the event would resonate more with other students and show young voters they are vital to all elections, not just presidential elections.
“When it comes to legislation, to policies that can help us young people … we also have to have a say in this right now, and not wait until the presidential election to figure it out,” Guerrero said.
Mikhail closed the event with remarks about her hopes to get more students aware and involved with the “Loyola Votes” campaign. She said she wanted to make sure students who register to vote follow through with their commitment.
“If you’re upset, you need to be more civically active … We’re hoping that we’ll teach students not to only focus on the presidential election, but also to focus on these local elections, because that impacts them too, actually more so than the presidential election,” Mikhail said. “You need to know who’s impacting you right in front of your doorstep.”
Makala McGrean, a student worker for Phil Hale, vice president of civic engagement, said being involved in civic engagement at Loyola and attending “Loyola Votes” events has taught her how politics relate to everything.
“It matters if you go out and vote,” said McGrean, a junior studying political science and sociology. “Everything you care about, you can tie it back to politics and voting, and how you can make a difference, or you can change what you want to change, or you can keep what you want to keep … it’s the time to be getting involved.”
Mikhail said there are still several chances for students to become involved in the “Loyola Votes” campaign. Future voter registration events are listed at luc.edu/vote.
The Phoenix originally posted a source’s name as Mario Duerrero. This story has since been updated with the correct spelling, Mario Guerrero.