On September 20, the country will recognize National Voter Registration Day, an annual effort to educate the public on their right to vote. Many of these celebrations are paired with voter sign-up drives, whose mission is to bring more people into the national conversation that surrounds local, state, and national elections. For many young people, including college students, gaining the ability to vote at the age of 18 is their first real opportunity to express their voice in the political arena. There are any number of issues that have energized young voters in recent years: access to healthcare; the implementation of clean energy initiatives; the future of the U.S economy and the stock market; the fight over education and what students should learn; legalization of marijuana and other drugs; and student loan forgiveness and who can get it. National Voter Registration Day’s goal is to inform everyone about their ability to vote, and, most importantly, make sure people who want to vote are registered to do so. Gaining the right to vote has been a long and often arduous process, particularly for women, minorities, immigrants, and young people themselves. Concern over voter suppression and properly run elections is at one of the highest points in recent memory. Ultimately, one of the greatest privileges as an American citizen is being able to show up to the polls or, increasingly, vote by mail and make one’s voice heard. Protecting these rights is of the utmost importance.
The University of Memphis Libraries is also doing its part to promote Voter Registration Day this year. First, a big thanks is owed to Perveen Rustomfram, the head of the University Libraries Government Publication Department, for working tirelessly to organize these festivities. The Shelby County Election Commission will have a table set up in front of the McWherter Library entrance on Tuesday, September 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; if you aren’t currently registered to vote and are on the University of Memphis Main Campus, drop by and the volunteers working there will guide you through the process of registering in person or online. On the same day from 12:30 to 1:30, McWherter Library and the Government Publications Department will be hosting a panel discussion entitled ‘Power of the Youth Vote.’ It will include Ebony Dawkins-Meeks from Political Science, Otis Sandford from Journalism and Strategic Media, and Cookie Woolner from History. Please plan to attend this wonderful educational opportunity, where University of Memphis professors will discuss the role of young voters now and in the future. It will be held in the McWherter Library Second Floor Commons; refreshments will be provided, including pizza. We hope to see you there!
There is no question that voting is one of the most important rights we can exercise as Americans. We here in the Government Publications Department would also like to share some online resources if you want to explore this topic further:
- Tennessee Secretary of State Resources on Voter Registration Drives and Registering to Vote
- USAGov Voter Registration Information
- Shelby County Election Commission General Information About Voting
- USAGov Voting and Elections
- The White House on Elections and Voting
- United States Department of Justice on the History of Voting Rights