ORLANDO | NextGen America, a nonprofit and political action committee focused on environmental advocacy, dispatched teams across Florida for National Voter Registration Day Sept. 25, attempting to register as many students as possible before the Oct. 9 deadline.
The organization claims it has registered almost 40,000 voters in the state so far for the 2018 election and received over 15,000 pledges to vote.
NextGen America held a rally — “UCF Charge Your Vote” — at the heart of the University of Central Florida’s campus in the student union. The open event included republicans and democrats, as well as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and other activist groups pushing for students to register.
UCF alum State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-49) came out to show support for the cause. Smith became the first openly gay Latino to serve in the Florida Legislature when he was elected in 2016.
“We’ve seen so many people who have been unengaged in the election cycles in the past and we’ve seen the consequences,” says Smith. “This cycle people really have an opportunity to use their vote to make a difference.”
For the first time students at UCF will get a chance to vote at the campus’ early voting site located at the Live Oak Center. The exact dates of the early voting site are still undetermined.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled July 24 against the state imposed ban on on-campus early voting sites claiming it was unconstitutional and appeared to be done to stop younger voters from casting ballots.
Smith was excited for how convenient the early voting site will be for UCF students.
“That’s going to present an incredible opportunity for students to really turn out and vote between classes,” says Smith. “They could walk over to that early voting site and make sure their voices are heard.”
Chad Griffin, president of HRC, also came out to show support for student’s voices. HRC is the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans. The organization is urging voters to turn out for equality in this upcoming midterm election, especially students.
“We’ve got to pull the emergency brake on this administration and the way to do it is show massive turnout in these midterm elections. Never think your vote doesn’t matter,” says Griffin.
Griffin continues, “Each and every person here in the state of Florida and around this country and LGBT people especially, have a responsibility to stand up, to vote, to get other friends, family and allies to the polls and vote so that we can send a loud and clear message to the Trump administration.”
According to HRC, LGBTQ Americans have been turning out for elections in increasing numbers. Of the estimated 10 million LGBTQ eligible voters in the U.S., approximately 7 million voted in the 2016 election, according to national exit polling data.
HRC predicts the number of LGBTQ voters to rise with each election as more citizens are becoming empowered and more individuals are identifying as a part of the community. According to a recent report by HRC, 20 percent of millennial’s identify as LGBTQ.
“For LGBT people who will be of voting age in time for this election, this is perhaps the most important election that they may ever see in their lifetimes,” says Griffin.
To register to vote and to learn more about HRC visit HRC.org.