Coogs Vote campaign strategizes to register new voters
Student Government Association Director of External Affairs Marcus Smith’s eyes lit up when Chief of Staff Leo Mata entered his office with a box full of buttons.
“You asked, I delivered,” Mata said.
Smith thanked him, taking the box out of Mata’s hands. “I’ve been waiting for these for so long.”
These buttons are for Coogs Vote, a campaign Smith had been working on since he took office back in April.
“I saw some pretty good potential to do it, especially with the gubernatorial elections coming up,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time coming. A lot of details, a lot of moving pieces, many long hours. But, I think so far, our efforts have been successful.”
Since Sept. 8, Smith and other Coogs Vote contributors have been tabling at the UC South, North and Satellite — that is, if enough workers are available.
These workers are paid, and one aspect of the job includes phone banking, which helps the organization to pledge voters and keep them informed about the upcoming dates.
“Usually in student run campaigns, it is difficult to acquire enough pledge cards to host a three-hour phone bank with your own list,” Smith said.
“For example, if you are partners with a community organization, you would be given a community list in addition to your own to accommodate the average phone bank session link. This is not the case for UH. Additionally, we have enough volunteers to handle the volume of information we have collected, which, I would like to stress, shows how interested students ar in getting involved on campus and in the political process.”
The tabling involves volunteers giving students pledge cards, voter registration cards and buttons. Smith said the important thing at their tabling is getting the students registered to vote.
“We’re getting pretty consistent numbers,” Smith said. “What we usually get roughly 90 a week with consistent tabling, and sometimes more depending on their strategy.”
On Sept. 22, the campaign registered a total of 619 students. Its main goal is to reach ranges between 700 to 1,000 registered voters.
Smith said it’s not just students getting involved with the campaign. He sees a lot of support from faculty, staff and administration.
“Professors on campus have allowed our students to go to into the classroom, announce ourselves, and have students register voters and pledge to vote in the upcoming election,” Smith said. “Sometimes we will register 15 people, especially in the auditoriums. Professors are willing to give their valuable class time, and are excited we asked in the first place. Using these strategies and getting students involved, I think, has been very significant for us.”
Many student organizations have come together to get involved with Smith’s Coogs Vote campaign, including the UH College Democrats, UH College Republicans, SGA and the NAACP. The campaign even brought in non-partisan organizations including the Texas Freedom Network, Terry Scholars, Mi Familia Vota and Phi Alpha Delta, providing the campaign support in any way they could.
“One of the primary initiatives was to create the University of Houston Political Council,” Smith said. “I spoke with the (organizations’) presidents and the past leadership, and we’re all very much in the idea that regardless of what our ideological differences are, that we can come together and make a real impact on the campus.”
Smith adds that the political council was something he has been wanting to do before he took office — creating a non-partisan organization between organizations.
On Wednesday, Sept. 24, the campaign held a campus-wide tabling event. The voter registration festival, also known as “Turn-Up for Turn-Out,” was held at the Lynn Eusan Park on Sept. 25. The voter registration festival included food, resource tables, voting registration and voting pledges. Pledges will be entered in a drawing for a chance win an iPad 3. The drawing will happen on Oct. 6, which is the last day to register to vote.
At “Turn-Up,” chemistry sophomore Michael Carter visited the Coogs Vote table to update his address. This will not be Carter’s first time to vote; he voted in the 2012 presidential election, two months after he turned 18.
Carter said that voter turnout is “historically at its lowest point.”
“Lots of people complain about how they don’t like where the government’s headed, and it can’t go in the right direction if we’re not putting the people who we want to lead it in that direction,” Carter said. “That’s the reason why we have so many people that have been in office for 20 or 30 years in Congress is because it’s the same people who are electing them; it’s the older generation that continue to vote, whereas the new generation hasn’t come in and put in their own people.”
Smith said his ultimate end goal for the event would be fore everyone to visit the booths and be educated on the candidate and party platforms
“An informed, and voting campus will make us a better campus, and a more powerful voting block in the future,” Smith said.
For more information or if you are interested in volunteering for Coogs Vote, visit their Facebook page.