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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MS Votes allows students to become registered voters

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Mississippi State University students have an opportunity to become registered voters through Mississippi Votes on Sept. 26 at five different locations on campus.

Mississippi Votes is a non-partisan, civic awareness organization existing to “register, educate, inform, and empower” voters across the state, according to their website. To increase voter registration, the organization examines each community’s needs in order to develop specific solutions to voter registration setbacks.

For Oktibbeha County, one such setback is a lack of registered voters. In a town with over 20,000 college students, Oktibbeha County stands as the least registered county in Mississippi. To remediate this, Mississippi Votes recruited several student ambassadors to bring civic awareness to MSU and the greater community of Starkville.

One ambassador, senior agribusiness major Betty Thomas, strives to educate students of their civic rights after a group of 30 of her friends said they did not vote during the 2014 mid-term election.

“I was just flabbergasted, because in a national election with major implications, none of them had voted for anyone, were registered to vote, knew how to vote, or knew how to vote absentee. And it just kind of solidified my passion for making sure that young people exercise their right, and know how to exercise their right, to vote,” Thomas said.

Mississippi Votes at MSU takes a non-partisan, community-minded approach to remove fear and anxiety from the voting process. On campus, Thomas and other ambassadors go to various clubs and organizations to encourage students to vote. They are partnering with the College Republicans, College Democrats and the Student Association for National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 26.

“I’m really excited that we’re starting here and I’ve been trying to get as many students involved as possible,” Thomas said.

David Sides, a third-year international business major, helps organize many of Mississippi Votes’ off-campus programs. One outreach program is new-voter registration within Starkville high schools. The organization will provide 30-45 minute peer-to-peer seminars with first-time voters to teach them the importance of voting in an election.  

Like Thomas, Sides became passionate about politics in college after he assisted a candidate in a mayoral campaign last year.

“It’s like, ‘I have no idea I’m doing, I’m just a sophomore in college, what am I supposed to be doing?’ and you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but you realize it’s not all that complicated,” Sides said. “It’s not hard to have your voice heard.”

Sides is also an ambassador for Community Campuses, a branch of Mississippi Votes which trains volunteers to visit Starkville neighborhoods, registering citizens to vote door-to-door. A chief tenant of Mississippi Votes’ mission is to bridge the conversational gap between members of the community. In Oktibbeha County, this gap lies between students and residents.

“We’re half the population of Oktibbeha County,” Sides said. “We’ve got to have our voice heard.”

In light of the 2016 national election, Sides and Thomas are diligent in empowering students to engage in elections not only in the country, but within their communities.

“For all of the people feeling frustrated with the political system right now who want to take action, it can be hard to do so,” Thomas said. “Voting gives young Mississippians the opportunity to take action and be a part of the change more than just tweeting about it.”

Students who cannot register to vote on Tuesday can visit the Circuit Clerk at the Oktibbeha County Courthouse. The Student Association has obtained a P.O. Box address for students who would like to register to vote in Oktibbeha County.

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
MS Votes allows students to become registered voters