“Are you registered to vote at your current address?” is a question I have probably asked a few hundred times this semester. Some people mutter yes under their breath avoiding eye contact, others act like I don’t exist, and sometimes they wander over and let me help them register to vote. Regardless of what kind of interactions I have in the field I keep asking this question and trying to reach as many people as possible.
I register people to vote across various college campuses here in Austin and at different community events with MOVE Texas, a nonpartisan nonprofit that’s main goal is to build power in underrepresented youth communities. One of the best skills I have learned this semester is how to be solution oriented. This skill is imperative to have in the field because you never know what can come up. Whatever it may be you have to be prepared to work around it to reach your goals. I learned this day to day throughout my shifts and it is what led to my greatest accomplishment with MOVE.
The week before National Voter Registration Day, MOVE’s biggest event of the semester that registers thousands of students across five cities, all hands were on deck tying up loose ends to ensure the events success. I was going to be the only person Volunteer Deputy Registrar certified to register voters at St. Ed’s since our Austin team is so small and everyone was going to be split up at different college campuses. I was reaching out to people who checked the volunteer boxes, stating that they were interested in volunteering with me, at St. Ed’s on our pledge to vote cards and I only got a couple of responses. I was really concerned because I knew I needed more capacity. I then started texting my close friends and classmates who I knew were civically engaged. Those relationships helped me tremendously because those are the people who showed up to help me. The Friday before NVRD, our campus contact messaged basically saying they dropped the ball and did not reserve a table in time for the event. I was really upset because I wanted to register people in my community at my university and here at the last minute someone else’s mistake was holding me back. I called different offices on campus and was able to have them make an event for us so we could table. The day of the event with the help of my volunteers I got over 100 people registered which is good considering the event almost got shut down and I was the only VDR present.
My classes have been amazing throughout my undergraduate career, but they can’t teach you certain things you learn in the real world. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I wouldn’t have learned how to make quick decisions in the field. City council invited my team and other voter registration nonprofits to get honored for our work to get more young people civically engaged. Getting this recognition was very exciting but my favorite part of my experience working with MOVE is knowing that I am made an impact in my local community.