Reaching Out To Young Voters At UNR

Nov 5, 2018

Statistics show 18 to 29-year-olds in the U.S. are the least likely to vote in an election. That’s according to the United States Election Project, a group the gathers information about the nation’s electoral system. In an effort to reverse that trend, students at the University of Nevada, Reno are actively working to encourage their classmates to vote during Nevada’s 2018 midterm elections. As contributor Lucia Starbuck explains, student volunteers say there is no excuse for other students not to vote.

It’s a cold overcast day in Reno and Sarah Bass, a junior political science and criminal justice major at UNR, is bundled up outside the student union. Holding a clipboard with bright colorful stickers that say, 'Register to vote here!,' she enthusiastically explains how easy it is to register.

“A lot of them don't realize how fast and easy it is to register, so they're a little hesitant, but it's literally nine check boxes,” Bass says. “I like to tell people it's as much information required to order a pizza.”

In 2016, UNR was designated as what’s called a voter-friendly campus. That means it has a strong structure in place designed to encourage students to engage in the voting process.

Allison Stersic is another student who has been working on raising awareness on the importance of voting.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / Reynolds Sandbox

Across campus, another student volunteer, Allison Stersic, works with Campus Election Engagement Process, a group otherwise known as CEEP, which is working at UNR and Western Nevada College.

“We’ve seen that millennials are the ones that are not overall participating in voting, numbers are down a lot,” said Stersic.

“Our focus at WNC is a social media campaign so the students are able to register online. [With] the majority of the students at WNC being online, it's an easy way to access them, so it's going to be our strategy.”

There’s also an effort in the classroom as well. Advocates give presentations to students about how and where to vote, even providing students with the resources they need if they will be voting outside of Washoe County. 

At the Reynolds School of Journalism, Gaby Ortiz Flores passed out absentee ballots after clearing misconceptions about polling locations the students had.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / Reynolds Sandbox

Gaby Ortiz Flores passed out absentee ballots to a journalism class after clearing up students’ misconceptions about voting.

“I hear a lot of students say, 'Well, I don’t go vote because politics is not my thing,' ” Ortiz Flores explained. “Well, politics may not be your thing, but it impacts your life, so to not even do something as simple as voting means that you are just letting other people make choices for you.”

These efforts seem to be paying off. There are slightly more voters between the ages of 18 to 24 this year compared to the 2016 presidential election. 

Lucia Starbuck is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism, and this story was produced in association with NevadaVote, a pop-up newsroom within the Reynolds Media Lab.