Locust Walk near College Green was bustling on a sunny, warm National Voter Registration Day. About 35 Penn Leads the Vote (PLTV) volunteers turned out for Tuesday’s programming, which included informational and engagement tables that guided hundreds of interested students through the process of registering to vote, checking their registration status, submitting mail-in ballot requests, and much, much more.
“What makes today so important is that the midterm elections are coming up,” said fourth-year political science major Nick Williams, who serves as director of PLTV. “It’s really important that Penn students are involved in not just federal elections but in every election. That is what Penn Leads the Vote preaches and that’s why we hold these drives every year.”
Williams, originally from Los Angeles, noted how PLTV, which is a student-run, nonpartisan program housed within the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and supported by Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs, is always focused on one major goal: to build a culture at Penn surrounding the importance of voting.
Penn President Liz Magill, new to Philadelphia, was excited to share that she recently received confirmation on her new registration status in Pennsylvania. She stopped by the action on Tuesday and asked PLTV leaders what their most persuasive argument is to people about registering to vote, and ultimately voting. Williams answered: “Registering to vote is such a great way to have an impact on your community.”
Alisa Ghura, a fourth-year urban studies and political science major who serves as chair of the student advisory board at the Netter Center, added that many students have certain matters they deeply care about, and voting is a way of influencing the outcome.
“Certain issue areas are really going to impact people while they live in Pennsylvania,” Ghura said.
A poster near a PLTV table allowed passersby to share specifically why they choose to vote. Another poster allowed those interested to place a color-coded sticky note that determines their voting status (an always-voter, sometimes-voter, first-time voter, etc.) under a statement they most identify with. The statements included: “my vote has national impact,” “voting is my responsibility,” “the youth vote matters,” and “my vote has local impact.” The interactive surveys will provide a way for PLTV to incorporate student feedback into the group’s messaging, explained Cory Bowman, associate director of the Netter Center.
Fourth-year political science major Amanda McGurk stopped by, placing an orange sticky note representing herself as an “occasional voter” under the “voting is my responsibility” section.
“I didn’t know much about elections growing up, but I’ve learned a lot more about it in college,” McGurk said. “It’s a privilege to be able to vote, and with all the accessible resources here that can help you vote, I view it as a responsibility.”
Noting that there is always still more work to be done, Bowman praised the dedicated students of PLTV and pointed to their many well-earned awards throughout the recent years, including the ALL IN Democracy Challenge’s Best Action Plan Award in 2021.
In addition to Locust Walk, PLTV also had a presence near Penn Dental Medicine on 40th Street on Tuesday, and sent out an email notification to the Penn community reminding them to register to vote. The deadline in Pennsylvania to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election is Oct. 24, 2022.