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Radford University’s Student Government Association has created a Voting Action Office (VAO) to help make voting easier for students.
The office is located on the second floor of the Bonnie in the SGA headquarters. Students can go there and be helped by trained student deputy registrars. The office is made up of 17 deputy registrars that are trained to register voters and fill out absentee ballots.
The members are split into three committees. The organizational committee is responsible for contacting clubs, organizations and athletic to talk about voting. The Residence Hall committee is in charge of setting up in various residence halls to register students. The third committee stays in the SGA office for students to come to them.
To become a deputy registrar the students have to go through training. The training began with a meeting with the Registrar from the City of Radford. This meeting is to teach everyone how to fill out the registration forms and absentee ballots.
When someone comes to the office to register, the first question they are asked is if they want to vote in Radford or in their hometown. Some students are already registered in their hometowns and just want to fill out an absentee ballot. Others want to register for the first time so they register.
The VAO was created in hopes of raising the number of students that are voting in elections. The office has been an idea for SGA for a while but has taken a lot of work to make a reality.
This was one of the initiatives that the SGA brought to the Board of Visitors to create a polling place on campus to make voting more accessible to students at Radford. When SGA President Colby Bender brought this idea to Radford City Registrar Tracy Howard they had a disagreement.
The problem with wanting a polling place on campus is that it would have to be staffed and Radford couldn’t afford to do that so they compromised. This compromise resulted in the VAO.
“This has been a goal of mine since I became elected SGA President. Voter registration has always been really important to me. We always wanted another outlet for student to come and vote and this seemed like the best way for us.” Bender said.
SGA spent all of last spring to create the VAO so that it will continue to work within SGA for years to come. The coming election is going to be considered the trial run for the office. The real test of the VAO will be the presidential election next year. That will be the election that a majority of students will be interested in voting.
This is important to SGA to try to make students more politically engaged. There are lot of issues that are important to college students and the best way to solve those is by voting.
“If you look at the rise of tuition rate this year, we had an increase over the summer of over 6% for schools throughout Virginia. If we want those issues to be solved we need to be voting.” SGA Secretary of Legislative Affairs Nick Thayer said.
The VAO is currently open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The office is in Bonnie room 209.