WSA day of action encourages student voting
By Paul Kelly
A quiet display with a not-so-quiet message: get out and fulfill your civic duties, lest history repeat itself, was showcased in Miller Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 17.
“Historically, students around the country have not been super involved with voting specifically,” said event organizer Emmaline Bigongiari. “If students were able to push to get more involved with voting and lobbying and other forms of civic engagement that would have a really big impact.”
Bigongiari helped come up with the display. A series of posters with a timeline printed on them demonstrated some of the finer points of the history of voting rights in the United States. Among them were some of the more routine history class factoids, but also a few surprises.
“I thought that I was really comfortable with the history of voting, but reading a lot of these things was new information and things that I hadn’t traditionally thought about, like access to photo IDs for trans individuals and people of color in different communities’ voting access,” sophomore Hanna Bridgham said. “I also didn’t know that Oregon passed a law where they just register everyone to vote- like why isn’t that a thing nationwide?”
The display was created by the Associated Students office, but the state-wide theme for the day was determined by the Washington Student Association.
According to the WSA Day of Action Facebook page, the WSA works with 12 different universities within Washington state on issues that are important to students. The organization works with students on direct legislative advocacy, increasing support for survivors of sexual assault on campuses and freezing the cost of tuition.
The page also says that for 2017 the agenda also included several voting rights issues, including improving access for people with disabilities and passing the Washington Voting Rights Act, which will ensure all communities have a fair chance to elect candidates of their choice in local elections.
Organizing events like this are the beginning of creating student awareness and action.
“That is how you have the student movement- engaging with those critical people that want to be a part of it because they’re passionate about inspiring that change,” AS President Simrun Chhabra said. “I do think the work we do is very useful.”
Often times the difficulty comes in getting the message across clearly and breaking down preconceived ideas. Bigongiari feels that civic engagement is perceived to be “boring” or is misunderstood.
“Civic engagement really means any work that you are doing to address issues of public concern,” said Bigongiari. “Whether that is creating art, or calling your legislators, or voting, or going to a protest or educating yourself, there are so many ways to be civically engaged.”