Less than 24 hours removed from the first presidential debate, four McDaniel College student organizations combined forces to help make sure their fellow students' voices will be heard this election.
The Green Terror Programs, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, League of United Latin American Citizens and G.I.R.L. — a new student organization dedicated to community service and confidence — set up outside of a dining hall in McDaniel's Decker Hall in recognition of National Voter Registration Day. There, volunteers spent the day helping students register to vote and receive their absentee ballots to make sure they were fully prepared for the 2016 election.
According to Sam Yates, of the Green Terror Programs, this is the first time these groups have come together to help register students. She said this is a vital way to get an underrepresented voice out in the political system.
"For a lot of college students, this is their first time participating in a national election, so they don't necessarily know the resources they have available to them," Yates said. "They might not know how to vote away from home, and in the business of senior year, they might not have had the opportunity to register."
As students made their way to lunch, members of Omega Psi Phi reached out to passersby with a consistent set of questions.
"Are you registered to vote?"
"What state do you live in?"
"Are you planning on going home to vote?"
Many students soon realized that they didn't know what their registration status was, or that they hadn't yet figured out how or when they planned to vote. Soon, dozens were crowding the table, looking for more information.
For the minority of students who still needed to register, the organizations had several laptops on hand and helped guide them through the process. For the others who simply needed an absentee ballot, they took down their email addresses and sent them the form to request a paper copy in the mail. Some chose to make their requests right there on the spot.
Bailey Boyle, of Chicago, said she was surprised at how easy it was to request her absentee ballot. She said she voted in the primary and is planning on voting in the general election as well.
"I'm excited to participate in the election again," Boyle said. "I probably could have asked for better candidates. It's our civil duty, though. Everybody ought to vote."
The groups helped students apply for ballots in states across the country, from New York and New Jersey, to California. For those looking for more information about the election, they had Skim the Vote guides to the positions of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Donald Trump.
Carroll County Breaking News
Andre Henry Jr., of Frederick, registered to vote for the first time. He said he had been planning to register but hadn't found the time. This drive was the perfect event to push him to go ahead and make that final leap; registration only took about three minutes, as he filled out and submitted his information.
"I feel like I've got an obligation to vote," Henry said. "My brother is in the Air Force, so it's my duty to vote since he's fighting for my rights."
To register or request an absentee ballot
Those looking to register to vote or request an absentee ballot can visit voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/OnlineVoterRegistration/InstructionsStep1. Registration forms can also be picked up at the local Board of Elections office, at 300 S. Center St., Room 212, in Westminster. You can also register in person at an early voting center from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 18 online or by mail. The in-person voting center registration deadline is Nov. 3.