At a table loaded down with stacks of voter registration forms at the Mosby Court public housing development on Saturday, student Anthony Jones is encouraging residents to get registered and vote in the upcoming presidential election.
“What’s up my man, you want a button?” he asks a young boy who has wandered over, curious about what’s going on. “We’re out here registering people to vote. We don’t care who you vote for, just that you get registered and vote for somebody.”
Jones, a junior sociology and international social justice double major, and Camilla Harris, a sophomore international studies major, are working this semester as part of a grant from the Andrew Goodman Foundation to promote election engagement among VCU students and disenfranchised communities in Richmond.
“Our goal is to register both millennials, college-aged students to get them engaged in the electoral process, as well as underrepresented communities — that’s low socio-economic status families, that’s people who have been disenfranchised,” Jones said.
Jacqueline Smith-Mason, Ph.D., associate dean and director of academic affairs for the Honors College, was the recipient of the grant from the foundation’s Vote Everywhere program. Vote Everywhere aims to recruit, train and support emerging leaders at America’s colleges and universities, and for the students to strengthen democracy by leading long-term voter engagement, public policy and social justice initiatives.
“Research indicates that voting is habit forming. For instance, if an individual begins to vote at an early age, there is a greater likelihood that individual will continue to participate in elections throughout their life compared to those who do not,” Smith-Mason said. “As a result, it is important for our students to find issues that resonate with them and learn how their vote can have an impact on local, state and federal elections.”
As part of the grant, Jones and Harris — both students in the Honors College — have been tabling in the University Student Commons, visiting classes, and participating in student organization fairs. They have also been working to set up a mock debate between the Young Democrats and Young Republicans.