Third-years Zaakir Tameez and Elizabeth Parker have teamed up with Governor McAuliffe to identify and address issues surrounding civic engagement among college students. This partnership, formally called Governor McAuliffe’s Task Force on Millennial Civic Engagement, is in many ways a product of the reluctance of UVa administrators to support progressive initiatives.
On September 7th, Tameez (Co-chair of the Task Force) and Parker (Student Representative to the Task Force) led their first round table discussion at UVa alongside Kelly Thomasson (Secretary of the Commonwealth) and Traci DeShazor (Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth and Co-chair of the Task Force). Students in attendance were encouraged to voice barriers they’ve encountered during the voting process.
For many, accessing their polling location is a huge challenge.
Having noticed the University’s neglect of this issue during last year’s presidential election, Parker took matters into her own hands. In a letter that received signatures from members of both the University Democrats and College Republicans, she asked UVa administrators to allow Safe Ride, a shuttle service that normally operates during late hours, to provide students with free transportation to and from voting booths. Over 1,000 students benefited from this system. Parker said the process of getting the administration’s support was long and difficult, which she finds concerning.
“I think sometimes student self-governance can be used as a cop-out–it’s a way to put burdens on students that really should fall on administration, quite frankly.”
Students also mentioned the issue of being misguided on where to vote. Since 11 first-year dorms share a name with Charlottesville City streets, campus dorms are often confused with city houses, and incorrect polling locations are assigned. Students had attempted to resolve this issue in the past, but their efforts “[didn’t] continue because people graduate,” Zaakir explained, adding that “the blessing and curse of student self-governance is that the University can just say ‘you guys take care of it’, but then the best practices get lost every year.”
What are some challenges you experience as a voter? Do you think the University is responsible for providing solutions to these challenges?