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Vote! Encouraging and supporting student civic engagement

You’ve probably been able to pick up from all the campaign ads, articles and videos on social media and groups encouraging you to vote, that it is an important time in our country: midterm elections. There are important local, state, and federal elections taking place across the country, including many in Arizona. This year, Arizonans get to vote for Governor, a new senator taking over retiring Senator Flake’s seat, and several propositions covering issues like renewable energy, education, and taxes—all of which will have an impact on the lives of graduate and professional students in the state of Arizona!

There are nearly 20,000 full- and part-time graduate and professional students at ASU, many of whom are here with their families, who will be impacted by decisions made at every level of government. All ASU students are important parts of their communities, but the student population isn't always well represented at the polls during elections. GPSA wants to help change that by encouraging and supporting student civic engagement.

One important part of this was making sure students are registered to vote – not always an easy process for busy students. GPSA held a series of voter registration events on or near each ASU campus throughout September and October, where students could come fill out a voter registration form and talk about voting in the upcoming election. GPSA’s Director of State and Local Government Affairs, Christian Ross, has coordinated these student-led efforts to encourage voter registration. “It is personally encouraging to see so many students invest the time and energy to take seriously the opportunities and responsibilities of…voting,” he shares. “We had students ranging from those registering to vote for the first time to others who brought a whole cohort of their friends.”

In addition to voter registration, GPSA advocates on behalf of graduate students in other ways. Last month, a team from GPSA traveled to Washington, DC, for an advocacy event led by the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students. After a weekend conference discussing advocacy issues with graduate students from across the country, we met with the offices of every Arizona Representative and Senator Flake. At these meetings, we discussed the issues on the NAGPS advocacy agenda: open access to government-funded research, international student visa revalidation, and the Higher Education Act reauthorization.

While GPSA values the opportunity to advocate on behalf of graduate students, it is important that all graduate students are involved. The decisions that are being made by governments will affect us and our families for years to come. No matter how you vote, what party you align with, or what issues you care about, it is critical that all our voices, the voices of the graduate and professional student community, are a part of those decisions. If you can, make sure you vote. Do it for yourself, for your friends and families.

By Sarah Geren, vice president of external affairs for GPSA.