#PanthersVote kicks off

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  • UNI students work to register people to vote on Tuesday, Sept. 25 in the Maucker Union.

  • Student organizations, academic departments and NISG collaborated to organize the #PanthersVote initiative. During their kickoff even on Sept. 24, students were encouraged to register to vote.

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JOSHUA DAUSENER, Copy Editor | [email protected]

An afternoon thunderstorm failed to wash away the #PanthersVote initiative’s kickoff event. Taking place  from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 24 in Maucker Union, UNI students registered folks to vote and engaged students on the importance of participating in American democracy.

#PanthersVote is a non-partisan collaboration of UNI student organizations, academic departments and Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) to push voter registration and engagement during the 2018 election cycle.

The event was originally meant to be a mix of voter registration/engagement and outdoor activities and games, until the rain forced organizers to move to plan B.

NISG Director of Governmental Relations Matt Johnson explained that he and others had to prepare a last-minute inclement-weather plan after noticing the forecast.

“Yesterday we saw the forecast, and me and Brenna [Wolfe] then informed each student org. to have a backup plan. We were also working with Event Services, we worked to make sure there was a plan B.”

Brenna Wolfe is a senior with the American Democracy Project and has been working with Johnson on the #PanthersVote coalition.

According to Wolfe, there were nine volunteers across campus at Maucker Union and Rod Library registering students to vote. Wolfe noted that herself and Johnson had even worked to create a Snapchat filter to celebrate the event.

UNI’s Department of Political Science, the Black Hawk County Auditor’s Office, and organizations such as UNI’s Political Science Society, NextGen, the Northern Iowa Democrats, UNI Proud and Refugee and Immigrant Support and Empowerment (RISE) all had tables set up in the Union during the kickoff.

The Northern Iowa Democrats originally intended to host an outdoor dunk-tank by Maucker Union, but organization president Natalie Dean said that they had to cancel due to rain.

“When we saw the forecast, we got tons of stickers, we got campaign literature, we got someone grabbing juice boxes and cookies, and we’re still going to register students to vote,” said Dean.

The effort to get students registered came with news indicating that it may soon be easier for on-campus residents to vote.

According to NISG Vice President Kristen Ahart, beginning on Oct. 1, UNI students living on-campus will be able to access proof of residence documentation on their phone via the MyUNI app.

Under the 2017 voter ID bill passed in Iowa last year, voters who are not registered before Oct. 27 are required to show a proof of residence in order to vote. This portion of the law drew criticism due to the fact that university students living on-campus rarely possess offical government documents to prove their residency, giving them additional barriers to vote.

According to Wolfe, the kickoff event registered just under 100 students to vote on Tuesday. The campaign hopes to register many more in the coming weeks.