Alaska takes on the initiative to register the ‘unheard’ vote

For some of us, trying to keep up with general elections is a little overwhelming, especially when we’re in the middle of a presidential election that seems to be turning new corners everyday. Throw in all the madness that comes along with being an Alaskan in the midst of “Palinmania”, and some of us may be forgetting an essential part of the election process: registering to vote.

Lucky for us, there are others out there who are deeply committed to giving us that little nudge. From the local to the national level, many volunteers are pulling together to remind their fellow citizens how important it is to make their vote heard.

David Boyle, a spokesperson for the McCain/Palin campaign in Alaska said that he is overwhelmed by the large volunteer response he has received by people who are willing to help get Alaskans registered.

“I have over 400 volunteers. I have more than enough volunteers here in Anchorage to reach out and get them registered and to solicit votes,” said Boyle.

And the full blown operation hasn’t even begun yet. According to Boyle, the campaign operation will be starting next week with its headquarters here in Anchorage.

“We’re going to have our mini campaign offices co-located with the Republican Party offices in all of the outlying communities. There will be a lot of phone calling and a lot of door-knocking, reminding people to register,” Boyle said.

Volunteers range from teenagers on up. A student from UAF even offered to organize Students for McCain-Palin on their campus, said Boyle, who is still searching for a volunteer to organize the group at UAA.

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The Obama-Biden campaign is also working hard to increase registered voters. Although the Alaska Communications Director from “Obama for America” was unavailable for an interview, a visit to their web site is proof that McCain/Palin supporters are not the only ones encouraging Alaskans to register. The Obama/Biden campaign recently opened their sixth and seventh offices in Sitka and Homer, and will be participating in phone banks and weekly events to help increase the number of people at the polling booths on Election Day.

There is also a third campaign, one we may not be too familiar with, that is promoting voter registration as well. Student Life at UAA started UAA votes, a campaign of their own, and hired UAA students to be that campaign. They have been working hard to get the word out and make the voter registration process easy and available for the college-aged demographic.

“It’s an awareness raising campaign,” said Dean of Students Bruce Schultz. “We have already registered about 600 individuals throughout the campaign and we’ll continue to do that very strongly until the last day to register for participation in the general elections.”

The campaign mostly targets college students, a demographic that drastically lacks in numbers at the voting booths. Dean Schultz describes the purpose of the UAA Votes campaign as in two parts. The first is to engage students in the democratic process, and second, to increase the number of students who are registered voters.

The campaign has posted flyers all over campus and has organized a variety of events, encouraging people to register. However, their main focus was to provide students with voter registrars on campus who would make the registration process fast, easy, and available almost anywhere. The Student Information desk on campus has trained all of their staff to be voter registrars and it seems they’re not alone.

“In August, we trained all of the peer mentors and Residence Life to be voter registrars so they can register individuals to vote. We also have trained professional staff and faculty to be voter registrars,” Dean Schultz, said.

Heather Apperson, a 22-year-old English Education major, was one of the 55-60 students trained. Apperson, a MAC Apartments R.A.,said that becoming a registrar was a choice that the R.A.’s were given.

“Residence Life has really been trying to spearhead getting kids to vote,” Apperson said. “We’ve been putting up posters and organizing programs that promote getting people to register. We had a program where kids could come and watch the movie Independence Day and register to vote afterward. There is access for people who are living on campus.”

Apperson said that there will definitely be more events to come in the future.

Students interested in registering on campus may do so at the Student Information Desk or with any qualified Residence Life staff or faculty. The deadline to register for the general election is Oct. 30.