September is National Voter Registration Month and Vols Vote is here to get you ready to hit the polls! We know that voting for the first time, and voting in general, can be a little confusing, What I.D. do you need? Where do you vote? Can you vote online? How do I know if I’m registered? That’s where Vols Vote is here for you! Isabelle Marshall and Nolan Ragland, two Vols Vote members, are here to encourage you to make sure you’re registered and vote in the next election!
Marshall, a senior majoring in Public Administration, says she understands that voting can be confusing, but that it shouldn’t deter you from participating in elections, including local elections. “I got involved [in Vols Vote] because I have always been taught about the value of voting and was profoundly shocked by the low turnout rates of our state, especially among young people. I would often hear so much confusion and apathy surrounding voting from my peers and wanted to change it.”
Ragland, a junior majoring in Political Science, echoed that sentiment and noted that voting is a way of letting your voice be heard. “I chose to get involved because I really believe that voting is the most fundamental method that individuals have to impact their lives. Our leaders have a significant amount of power over our society, and becoming an informed and engaged voter is the best way that we all have to create the world we all want to live in.”
Even voting in local elections is crucial as it impacts your day-to-day life as a member of your community. From the education that students receive to local taxes, elections big and small all matter.
“The bottom line is that citizens are given a great deal of power by being allowed to participate in the political process,” said Marshall. “No one will do anything about the issues young people care about unless we use our voices by voting. Even though presidential elections get a lot of media attention and have a greater sense of importance surrounding them, oftentimes your local and state elections will affect you more than federal elections, from the amount of affordable housing in your city to what taxes you have to pay.”
If you’ve found yourself confused by the registration process or the voting process, Ragland, Marshall, and the whole Vols Vote team is here to let you know that it’s okay to be confused but they’re here to help. In fact, you can check out several events throughout the month of September to learn more about elections and how to get registered!
Attend the Voter Registration Tailgate, Sept. 18
If you have never voted before, the first step is to register. You can register to vote in minutes at the UT’s Voter Registration Tailgate on Sept. 18 before the Tennessee Tech game at Neyland Stadium!
At the tailgate, you will be guided through the registration process in minutes using the Secretary of State’s fast, easy, and secure online voter registration system, GoVoteTN.gov.
Last year, Tennesseans broke voter turnout and participation records. Together we can build on this momentum. You can participate by registering to vote at the UT’s Voter Registration Tailgate on Sept. 18 and encouraging your friends to come by and register.
“We are working on some events to celebrate National Voter Registration Day on September 28, as well as more throughout the year,” Marshall said. Stay up to date by checking out calendar.utk.edu/volsvote
“I think students should be reassured that the voting process is relatively simple, so there’s no need to stress,” Ragland said. “However, [students] should make sure to look up their state’s voting laws with a simple Google search (as all states are different) to make sure their vote counts. For instance, in Tennessee, you cannot cast an absentee ballot the first time you vote, so being aware of all laws in your state is extremely important!”
“Every state’s voting process looks different,” agreed Marshall. “Whether you are from out of state or Tennessee, always check to see what the ID requirements are, when and where elections are held, and make sure your friends and family have all the information they need as well. You can register to vote online, and it’s easy! It’s GoVoteTN.com for Tennessee, or just search ‘how to vote in [state]’ if you want to register elsewhere.”
Vols Vote is a campus-wide initiative led by the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the UT Libraries in partnership with the Office of the Dean of Students, Student Life, Student Success, and the Student Government Association (SGA). If you have questions about voting, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.