Democracy 101

Student Senate implements new program to make voting more accessible to students


Photo by Anna Mateffy

Story by Katy Macek, Currents Editor

A new way to register student voters will start at UW-Eau Claire after the Student Senate voiced its approval for the resolution of TurboVote, an online program that allows students to register from the comfort of their own home.
Student Body Vice President Jake Wrasse said this change from the manual voter registration process will open up voting to students who may not have taken the time to register before, something he and Senate believe is fundamental to being an active member of the larger community.
“There are few things less fundamental than democracy and to be able to provide an easy way to participate is really something I’m proud to be a part of,” he said.
The idea came into play after the Senate worked to register voters manually last year by setting up registration tables, certifying volunteers to register voters and making sure at least two or three people were at the tables every hour.
They did see a 210 percent increase in on-campus student voting, Wrasse said, but for all the effort everyone put in they had set their goals higher.
“I am so incredibly proud to have been a part of that, I was awed by how hard people worked,” he said. “While I think that was incredible to experience, I also know that it was not nearly as efficient as it could have been.”
At the end of last semester, Wrasse said he and now Student Body President Sam Fish began working with the chancellor to find a program which would enable them to register student voters much more quickly.
TurboVote stood out to them because it has an excellent reputation with other schools, it is non-partisan and it is very simple for students to log on to the website and register, Wrasse said.
“Basically what this site gives us is having a fully staffed voter registration table on the busiest spot on campus 24/7, and we don’t actually have to have people there if we implement it right,” he said.
Christian Paese, Information Technology Director and Finance Director for the Senate, said the funding for TurboVote had to be quick to allow as many students as possible to register before the early voter registration deadline passes on Oct. 10.
“In our ITC budget, what we did this past year in the budgeting cycle, we actually put a line item in for innovative programming or innovative project,” he said.
This means  instead of having to allocate money from the Student Senate General Ops budget and go through the long process of funding, they were able to take it right out of the line item, Paese said.
On Monday night, he said Senate passed a resolution in support of TurboVote, reaffirming its support and giving them the go ahead to begin spreading the word on campus.
“Because it was a line item in the technology budget, we didn’t have to do any legislation for that,” he said. “We were just able to pull the trigger and decide that was the appropriate way to go.”
TurboVote is free to all students, Paese said, including postage. They fill out their information online, print out the form to sign it and mail it in the provided pre-paid envelope along with several required documents.
Sam Milewsky, who was the Intergovernmental Affairs intern last year and one of the registration volunteers, said last year was a tough process because it involved so many people so many hours a week. He said he has high hopes for TurboVote.
“It’s a great opportunity for the Student Senate and the university to register a ton more students to vote, which is one of the top priorities for Student Senate and the Intergovernmental Affairs Commission,” he said.
Students can register to vote at Wrasse said he encourages students to register before the Oct. 10 deadline because afterward, the process gets a little more complicated.