Food, fun spur young to join voting crowd

2,100 undergrads at Towson register during `blitz'

October 13, 2006|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to the sun

The cotton candy was free yesterday for students at Towson University, as were heaping mounds of popcorn.

There was just one catch: Students had to register to vote in the general election in November.

The gratis munchies were among many incentives offered during Voter Registration Day at the university, the culmination of a series of events aimed at getting students to sign up to vote. Other enticements included the opportunity to enter a weekly raffle for iPods for those who filled out a voter survey.

"I think young adults should have an impact on their future," Tadoria Hawkins, an 18-year-old nursing student from Baltimore, said after she completed a voter registration form. "We are a big part of this community, and we need to help make the decisions that concern us the most."

The event was put on by Maryland Votes, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to register 8,000 young voters statewide before the deadline Tuesday. The effort is part of a broader project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to register 350,000 voters ages 18 to 30 nationwide, with the aim of building on recent gains in turnout among young voters.

Since the Oct. 1 kickoff of the program at Towson, about 2,100 of the school's 15,000 undergraduate students have registered, said Darcy Accardi, an assistant to the university's vice president of student affairs. That figure includes the registrations gathered yesterday.

"This is the most that we have ever done for voter's registration," Accardi said.

Yesterday's registration "blitz" came on the heels of other efforts, including competitions among the campus' 27 Greek organizations, and among the school's residence halls. The varying organizations competed for prizes, including cash and bonus points for the homecoming competition.

Kristin Bennett noted the incentives were a leading reason that members of her sorority - Alpha Xi Delta - registered more than 150 students, including some of the sorority's 65 members.

"The group that gets the most registrations gets 200 extra homecoming points," she said as she worked at a registration table her sorority had set up. "And of course we also get to be involved with the political issues that affect us the most."

Some students who were milling around yesterday's event spoke about the importance of voting and the issues they find most pressing in the Nov. 7 election. They also decried the apathy they see afflicting the U.S. election process, saying too many people are missing the opportunity to effect change and shirking their obligation as citizens.

"I am biased on a lot of issues, and I want to voice my opinions," said Jaclyn Bouchard, a 19-year-old biology major from New York City. "I think that gay marriages should be OK. And I think terrorism and the environment are the two most pressing matters."

Freshman Richard Buchanan said that there is power in numbers.

"One voice might not be enough to make changes," the 18-year-old theater major said. "But if the 17,000 people attending Towson all voted, we could make a difference on who gets elected."

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