With a goal to register at least 5,000 students, the Student Government Association at FIU hosted its first “Roar to the Polls” event on Wednesday, Aug. 31 to discuss voter literacy.
SGA began this initiative, with hopes of attracting Panthers to get registered and vote on Election Day; the first day of the three-day event took place in GC 243 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It’s an initiative that we started particularly this year just because our main goal as Student Government and the main goal of our president, Alian Collazo and vice president, Michelle Juarez is to increase civic engagement,” said Carolina de Almargo, SGA press secretary.
During the event, various topics were discussed including the importance of voting, creating a voting plan, as well as the voting resources available to help people become more informed on each running candidate.
Miami Dade, Broward, and Monroe County Election Representatives were also available to help students register to vote.
“We found it particularly interesting how this election year is extremely important because we are choosing our president for the next 4 years and it’s been a really important election battling it out,” said Almargo.
Almargo emphasizes the importance of not only being registered to vote, but to also being informed on the candidates, their political positions in government and what is it that they do.
Almargo said, “The first day focused on voter literacy and it’s knowing how your vote does count and not the misconception of ‘oh, your vote doesn’t really count’ and what it is that you’re actually voting for.”
Engage Miami, a non-partisan organization, was in charge of leading the discussion throughout the event.
According to Rob Biskupic-Knight, executive director of Engage Miami, the organization’s main priority is to encourage today’s generation to get more involved in government and participate by voting in politics.
“Engage Miami really is focused on helping young people like ourselves understand and how to organize around their issues of choice and also understand the importance of local elections on what may be their issue or issues of choice,” said Biskupic-Knight.
Biskupic-Knight encouraged those who attended the event to take a few minutes to write down topics that angered them or got them “pissed off.” Many of the students mentioned topics such as abortion, Donald Trump, slut shaming and police brutality.
This activity set the background for what followed as he went on to explain how Engage Miami developed from one their founders, now their current board members, being “pissed off” because of an ordinance that would have criminalized homeless people.
“Here in the city of Miami, there was going to be an ordinance that made it illegal to have tents out on public streets, have sleeping bags and so basically it was outlawing against a lot of homeless people’s existence, their humanity and so this really pissed people off and so they began to think, ‘ok, how can we organize young people to change the status quo?’” said Biskupic-Knight.
“It kind of just got started with “how do we get elected officials accountable to solving these problems and how can we get involved and find solutions ourselves?”
Biskupic-Knight stressed that although the general election is extremely important and necessary that we all go out to vote, especially since it occurs once in four years, we should also take into account all the “smaller” elections that occur in between since they tend to impact our daily lives.
During the first part of the event, known as “Voter 101,” Biskupic-Knight mentioned basic information in regards to voting and the many ways people can vote. One way to do so is by printing out a form from MIAMIDADE.GOV to request vote-by-mail ballots. It must be requested a week in advance of the election.
Early voting is also available by looking through the website for a list of times and locations were early voting will take place. Early voting begins 14 days prior to the nation-wide election.
People can also just wait to vote on Election Day but can only vote in the assigned polling place found on the voter identification card. All polling places will be opened from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Despite what most people have come to think, according to Biskupic-Knight, when young people are registered to vote, they turn up in higher numbers than the overall population.
“Being informed is always important and so is registration and I’ll be completely honest, I work for a political non-profit and sometimes thinking about all the judges that I had to vote for the August 30 election was like ‘I don’t really know a lot about them.’ It really is crucial to be informed because eeny meeny miny moe isn’t the best voting strategy,” said Biskupic-Knight.
During the second half of the event, known as “Organizing 101,” attendees separated into teams to discuss a range of different topics including criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and economic reform.
In the end, students were able to offer solutions and/or suggestions of organizations to participate in on campus that tackled that particular issue.
For criminal justice reform, for instance, #BlackLivesMatter tied with police brutality was a subtopic referred to and how it seems that police authorities contributed more to the violence than act as mediators. On campus, the Black Student Union supported this cause.
“What we want is for people to understand that you don’t have to know every little detail of politics but definitely do know who you would like to represent you,” Almargo said.
“At such a young age, you don’t really think that issues can start to affect you. Also, if you’re not involved in politics, don’t major in international relations or aren’t into law, you should understand that at least reading about presidential candidates and their positions in political issues equates to also reading about your future.”
The next two events of the trilogy series will take place on September 12 in the Kissing Bridge at 11 a.m. until 2 .m. and September 27 in the GC Pit at 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.