Registration helps students ‘rock the vote’

By Thomas Pardee

Local volunteers were on hand during Columbia’s U-Pass distribution last week to help simplify the voter registration process for students. The Office of Student Communication’s campaign produced 863 voter registration forms-much more than the 600 they were aiming for, organizers said.

The registration booth was located at the 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., next to the exit doors in order to attract students picking up their U-Passes. Students said the booth made starting the registration process easy.

“I’ve been meaning to register to vote, but I really just haven’t had the time,” said Amanda Heinritz, a junior marketing communications major. “People on the street asking me for my voting information freaks me out, and I figured, at least their table is in the building … “

Volunteers said this attitude was what they were hoping for.

“That means our strategy is working,” said Linda Tucker, 52, a community volunteer who worked at the booth. “Some people are bashful. They’ll look over here, and we’ll encourage them or kind of buttonhole them and ask if they want to register. Once we start talking to them, they seem very enthusiastic.”

This is the second year the Office of Student Communication has set up a registration booth. Last year, volunteers helped more than 600 students apply for registration.

Tom Tresser, an instructor at both the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and DePaul University, was hired by Columbia to coordinate the campaign. He said the upcoming election has students excited to get involved.

“Students are energized, and they’re eager to vote,” Tresser said. “They’re some of the most energized students I’ve seen in my 20 years of doing this kind of work.”

Heinritz said the convenience of the booth was attractive, but she started the application process because she wants her voice to be heard.

“I wouldn’t vote if I didn’t feel strongly for a person-I’m not into that,” she said. “I really want to vote for [Barack] Obama. I like what he stands for, and he seems to have a plan.”

Darnell Head, a recent graduate of Dominican University who is about to start his first year teaching K-8 students for Chicago Public Schools, said the issues in this year’s election are crucial to students everywhere.

“Better education reform-that’s what I’m interested in,” said Head, who had accompanied a friend to U-Pass distribution when he saw Columbia’s booth. “I want to vote for a party that will put money back into the economy and stop taking it away from people.”

It isn’t just students who are excited about November’s election. Laurene Hynson, a 52-year-old restaurant owner from Hyde Park, also volunteered at the registration booth. She said this is the first time she has been inspired to contribute to an election and hopes she can pass that inspiration on to students.

“Regardless of whom young people vote for, I want to see them involved and engaged in the process,” Hynson said. “That is what this election is about, the sense they can make a difference.”

Tresser said he is happy to encourage Columbia’s community to devise ways to participate in the political process.

“I believe artists are leaders, and they could be excellent leaders if they’re encouraged and prepared,” he said.