Deadline for voter registration approaches

Pitt students have another deadline looming over their heads, and this time it’s not a paper… Pitt students have another deadline looming over their heads, and this time it’s not a paper ­­­­­— it’s an election.

Students at Pitt have three weekdays left to register for the election — and although thousands have registered or reregistered since the start of school — get-out-the-vote groups plan on making a final push before the Oct. 4 deadline.

Several organizations — including the Student Vote Coalition and the Sierra Club — have coordinated registration efforts on campus so far this semester.

Miller Nuttle, a full-time community organizer with the Sierra Club, said that the group has been active on campus — mostly registering freshmen — since the first day of orientation. The club has three organizers in Pittsburgh who work at Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and the Community College of Allegheny County.

The Sierra Club is a national grassroots environmental organization.

Nuttle said the Sierra Club’s effort this year was its largest nonpartisan get-out-the-vote effort to date.

“We really want to empower young voters. To help have their voices heard,” he said.

Since that first day in late August, they have picked up more than 1,700 registrations. Nuttle said they want to get to 3,000 on Pitt’s campus by Monday. He called it their “blitz week.”

“It’s a little ambitious, but we want to get as close as we can,” he said.

He also said that their success has largely come through the efforts of volunteers from student groups like the Black Action Society, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Theta Phi Alpha. They have tabled outside the William Pitt Union and around other parts of campus over the past several weeks.

Other student groups — including Pitt College Democrats and Pitt College Republicans — have worked with the Student Vote Coalition on campus.

John Hasley — a Pitt junior, coordinator for the Student Vote Coalition and new member of the Student Government Board — said the coalition is comprised of representatives from more than 30 student groups.

Hasley estimated that over the past several weeks they have registered around 2,000 students. Tabling in high-traffic areas like Towers Lobby and the William Pitt Union contributed to the numbers.

Hasley said that since this was the first SGB-sanctioned voter registration drive, he thought that the number of students who registered to vote was greater than last year’s.

Pitt College Democrats President Kelli Vandergrift said that, working with the coalition, they have helped to register students by tabling and attending campus events. But they came up with a novel way to approach voters — this Saturday they want to register voters waiting in line for buses to the Pitt football game.

College Republicans President Rachel Feinstein said that volunteers with the coalition will table until the end of this week with registration forms and absentee ballots, which are available from the county.

Hasley said that the Student Vote Coalition will not table on Monday because of time constraints. Even if students have their registration forms postmarked by Oct. 4, the forms will probably not get processed by the end of business hours on Monday. If students are going to mail their forms, Hasley suggests they do it by Saturday.

After the Oct. 4 deadline, Nuttle said that the Club will continue to launch get-out-the-vote events until election day. They intend to keep in touch with students and try to get them to pledge to vote, which he said will make them more likely to vote.

“We’re going to keep it up all of the way to Nov. 2,” he said.

Hasley said that the Student Vote Coalition will hand out a “who’s who” list for the November elections once the deadline for registration has passed. This will help students get up-to-date on the candidates running and their platforms.

Nuttle said that the “unprecedented” youth excitement should return this November, despite history to the contrary. Voters under 30 have been the age group with the lowest turnout for at least the last three national elections, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

“Historically, college students are written-off as nonvoters,” Hasley said. But, he added, since issues in Harrisburg will affect Pitt students — like last year’s attempt to put a tax on students’ tuition —students should be informed about the elections.

A Rock the Vote poll from Aug. 30 that showed more than 50 percent of the surveyed youth to be excited and likely to vote in November. Despite what people might say, Nuttle was confident that young voters would turn out.

“Youth are still going to make a big splash,” he said.