MASSPIRG new voters project

University of Massachusetts students looking to step up to the ballot box for the first time will have the help of MASSPIRG’s New Voters Project.

The project from MASSPIRG, a consumer group against threats to public health, safety, financial security and civil rights, aims to facilitate the voter registration process so that students will become more involved.

“It’s important to get students to vote and be more involved with politics, rather than vote under their parents,” said Izzy Goodman, coordinator for the project.

The New Voters Project was started in the early 2000’s in response to a decrease in the number of young voters.

The project showed success in 2004 when the young voter turnout increased by 9 percent and continued to grow, rising by approximately 11 percent in 2008, according to the project’s website.

Now, MASSPIRG has chosen UMass as a project hot spot to expand the number of young voters.

MASSPIRG volunteers have been working all around campus, advocating for students to vote. So far, the group has convinced about 860 students to vote, according to Goodman.

While volunteers are unpaid, interning for the project can get students at least three credits for signing up.

Currently, there are seven leaders for the project, including coordinator Beth Ramey, and 13 interns working to bring students into the voting system.

MASSPIRG has designated a point person to prevent invalid votes. So far, 40 invalid registrations have been discovered this year.

In-class speakers for the New Voters Project also do their part by recruiting more volunteers and interns and registering students.

MASSPIRG has incorporated Dorm Storm in the project.

Dorm Storm is an organization working with MASSPIRG to increase student involvement in the election while covering more ground around campus. The volunteers go door-to-door under the new solicitation policy for this year, which dictates who is allowed to knock on doors and go into dorms.

Around 100 or more students register every week, according to MASSPIRG. Registration ends on Oct. 17.

MASSPIRG’s efforts for the New Voters Project are similar to other student organizations such as the Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, the UMass Democrats and the UMass Republican Club..

Robson Miguel, computer science major, said he supports MASSPIRG’s mission by encouraging other students to register to vote.

“We should register because we’re going to be the ones who are doing the changing,” the 19-year-old sophomore said. “I think if we want change in this country then we should be registered.”

Rachel Martin, 21, is less keen on MASSPIRG’s approach, but agrees with its mission.

“It’s kind of annoying, but it’s also important to vote,” Martin said.