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NMSU Students Get Ready to Vote on National Voter Registration Day

Sep 27, 2019

The right to vote is a liberty many take for granted—especially young people.

While turnout rates among voters 18 to 29 increased more than any other age group in the 2018 midterms, the 36 percent participation rate was still the lowest among all ages.

To boost those numbers, members of student government at New Mexico State University signed up new voters as part of National Voter Registration Day. The nationwide campaign prompted more than 800,000 people to register in 2018.

Kyla Navarro, an NMSU junior and assistant director of governmental affairs for ASNMSU, sips a carton of melon milk as biology junior Luke DeAngelis registers to vote. According to ASNMSU, 15 voter registration agents at five tables around campus helped students get ready for Election Day.
Credit Michael Hernandez

Voter registration agent Ricardo Trejo signed up students at the Frenger Food Court. The public administration graduate student said he became a VRA to increase representation among Hispanics.

“One of my motivations to be a voter registration agent was to help out those people who don’t know any English, who are U.S. citizens who are underrepresented and help them and guide them through the registration process. Share information about the importance of registering to vote and to participate in our local county elections and our national elections as well," Trejo said.

Turnout among Hispanic voters increased by 13 percent in the 2018 midterms. That’s a 50 percent improvement from 2014 according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The City has switched to ranked-choice voting in its municipal elections. The process lets voters rank candidates by preference.

If a candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote, they win their race. But if no candidate reaches that mark, the person with the least number of votes is eliminated. Their votes are redistributed to voter’s second option. The process repeats until there’s a winner.

The Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office has been educating voters about the addition for more than a year. County Clerk Amanda López Askin said ranked-choice doesn’t change the voting process. Voters can pick one candidate, or in the case of the mayoral race—rank up to 10.

“I refer to ranked-choice voting always interchangeably as ‘instant-runoff.’ People seem to have more comfortable familiarity with runoffs because those are familiar to them. They’ve maybe even participated in a runoff elections," López Askin said. "And when you let people know that ranked-choice voting is actually an instant runoff, it somehow eases them because change is hard and this is new and so in that adjust time, I’m trying to do my best to educate voters.”

Animal science freshman Jessica Pedregon updated her registration from Hatch in order to vote in Las Cruces. Pedregon said she values having the right vote as an American because her parents are Mexican immigrants.

“Those who are born here, stayed here, their parents have always been here, they have a different privilege than those who have worked to be here and earned the right to be here. So, I feel like having a voice and getting to be like American and letting that voice out, making a difference and changing how our community sees things, their perspective or just how we want to see things changed," Pedregon said.

ASNMSU Director of Governmental Affairs Mathew Madrid oversaw the registration effort. As part of the county clerk-approved campaign, Madrid said students could take a pledge promising to be a dedicated voter, take part in elections and encourage others to register.

“Corbett Center Student Union is an early voting location as well as a polling place on Election Day so we are fortunate to have an opportunity for students to very easily take part in elections so we want to make sure that students kind of promise to themselves that they will take advantage of the opportunity that we have thanks to the county clerk," Madrid said.

Madrid estimated more than 60 students registered to vote while roughly 75 signed up last year. In a politically polarized era, Trejo said it’s critical to get as many people as possible civically engaged.

“It’s super important to vote because our nation is very divided and it’s causing a lot of issues internally and what better way to participate in our democracy but to vote. Choose who you want to be your representatives at the local, at the state, at the House of Representatives, at the Senate. It’s important to elect those and exercise our right to vote," Trejo said.

That message appears to have resonated with more teenagers in the midterms. Participation among 18 and 19-year-olds reached a record-high 23 percent, according to civic research data from Tufts University.

To Madrid, the right to vote matters for several reasons—chiefly that the country was founded on it.

“We declared independence a long time ago because we didn’t have a say-so in what was going on in our country. So, it would be a travesty if we let the same thing happen nowadays when we have that right as citizens of this great nation to take part in our democratic process and affect change on all levels of the government and directly choose how we live our lives," Madrid said. "So, I want to encourage everybody to take advantage of that opportunity that we have that not very many people around the world do.”

An opportunity and a freedom these students are helping others to exercise fully.

Early voting in Doña Ana County starts on Oct. 8. To mark the day, the county clerk’s office will host an event celebrating democracy at the County Government Center.