MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Sometimes it’s as simple as it sounds: register to vote, find your polling location, and cast your ballot. However, for students at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), it’s a little more complicated.
On Thursday, even through the rain, students could hear one constant question.
“Hi, are you registered to vote?” questioned one student.
“Are you registered to vote?”
“Are you registered to vote?”
On a campus where thousands of students come to learn, Thursday was a chance for one group of students to teach a lesson that’s been in the works for years.
“We register voters; we are a nonpartisan organization called the American Democracy Project. We register voters and promote civic engagement and civic learning, just trying to get our students involved, get them the resources they need to vote with confidence,” explained Victoria Grigsby, a sophomore at MTSU.
Rain or shine, or in Thursday’s case, a lot of rain, their work continued.
“Every single year when students come to MTSU, they find our office which is the office on campus that’s in charge of helping our students get registered and to the polls and vote. Students say, ‘Shouldn’t we have a polling place on this university campus?’ so this is a recurring theme,” said Dr. Mary Evins, who acts as an advisor for the organization American Democracy Project for Civic Learning.
For years, students at MTSU have been urging the Rutherford County Election Commission to make the campus a polling place. The goal is to help students who oftentimes have a tough time getting to the polls.
The lack of transportation and the lack of availability are just a few reasons junior Kalea Jackson said are holding students back from going to polling locations.
“I don’t have a car maybe, or I don’t have a way to get there, so I’m just not going to go. Some people think it doesn’t affect me; it’s not important to me. So our goal is to get them to those polling locations and maybe get our own one day,” said Girgsby.
Evins explained this isn’t the first time students have asked for the election commission to step in and make a change. She pointed back to 2020 when students went to Capitol Hill when a campus voting bill was being voted on by the Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee. She said the bill never got out of the subcommittee and never made it to the local committee or the House floor.
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“There are so many states that are very proactive about creating polling places on university campuses and Tennessee, for reasons that are for some reason inconceivable, it’s been an uphill battle and we think that the shared partnership of educating America’s youth is something that the state of Tennessee should and want to get involved in,” explained Evins.
This week, the American Democracy Project organization created a float titled “Space To Vote”, advocating for a polling location and even started an online petition to encourage the county to step in.
“We do get a lot of flack about not being involved and not voting, and having MTSU become a polling place just makes it more convenient not just for the students, but for the community,” said Jackson.