In its first semester of operation, Voters of AU is empowering students to go to the polls.
Voters of AU is a non-partisan organization with the goal of “getting people excited about voting and making sure that everyone’s informed about what they need to know [about voting],” according to Emma Baumgarten, a sophomore in the School of International Service and vice president of Voters of AU.
The organization began operations at the beginning of the fall semester after student volunteers at AU Votes decided to create an organization specifically geared toward students.
“If we are a students vote organization helping students get registered to vote, we thought it’d be a great idea if it was for students, by the students,” said Alyssa Levin, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and president of Voters of AU.
Since a majority of students who are registered to vote are registered in their home states, Levin said that last year most of their work involved helping over 500 students request their absentee ballots.
“We had people in the library helping students request their absentee ballots,” Levin said. “Last year, there were about three or four days where we had a table set up for people if they needed a notary for their ballot … or if they needed help just filling out the ballot.”
The organization also provides various on-campus resources such as stamps and envelopes available in Bender Library for sending out absentee ballots.
Baumgarten said she believes young people sometimes feel like their individual votes don’t matter, which can make students apprehensive about voting.
“It’s empowering to vote and be able to say ‘Hey, this is what I think about this issue, this person, or this topic and this is what I wanna see,’” Baumgarten said.
Levin said that she feels that some of the resistance to voting comes from the “very complicated system” of registering.
“You have to register, then you have to request and they make the whole form for requesting very difficult. Once you request that, then two weeks later you get your ballot and the ballot’s really difficult to fill out,” Levin said of her experience as a New Jersey resident. “It’s just so complicated, which is pretty disheartening.”
As of January 2023, 60,702 residents in D.C.’s Ward 3 are registered to vote and individuals ages 18-29 make up 23 percent of Ward 3’s eligible voters, according to D.C. Action. This adds up to 12 percent of the District’s eligible voters. but only 11 percent of D.C.’s registered voters live in Ward 3.
Eligible voters can register to vote in D.C. online or by mail up to 21 days before Election Day, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Voters can also register on Election Day at the same time they cast their ballot.
According to Levin, the importance of voting goes beyond students and extends to the entire Gen Z population because “our generation is more diverse than what our government reflects.”
“Every single vote matters,” Levin said. “There have been elections for national offices, congressional offices that have come down to a couple 100 votes. That one individual vote is so incredibly important.”
This article was edited by Maeve Fishel, Jordan Young and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.