For many UT students, the November 6 midterms will be their first opportunity to cast a ballot in a major election.
With record numbers of new voters registering in this election cycle, students in one UT political science class want to make sure first-time voters aren’t intimidated by what can seem like a daunting process.
Leading up to election day, students in Political Science 499 will be setting up UT’s first-ever nonpartisan Voter Genius Bar at UPerk Coffee Shop, 1831 Melrose Avenue. First-time voters are invited to stop by to ask questions about the voting process. Students, along with faculty and advisors, will staff the Voter Genius Bar on these dates and times:
October 29, 2–5 p.m.
November 1, 6–9 p.m.
November 2, 9–11 a.m.
November 5, 2–5 p.m.
With early voting already under way, student organizers Berkley Mason and Abigail Smallwood said they hope to offer a low-pressure way to help their fellow students navigate the voting process.
Why is a resource like the Voter Genius Bar important?
“Everyone seems unhappy, but tweeting is not what will fix the issues,” Mason said. “Voting is. . . . But the problem is that so many people have no idea how to vote. A nonpartisan event like this gives an opportunity to people of any ideology to come forward and ask for assistance in how to participate in democracy without having to worry about being accosted for their beliefs or coaxed towards one side of the aisle.”
How important are the upcoming elections and why should people care?
“This year in Tennessee, the offices of governor, senator, and congressman are up for election,” Mason said. “Often the most importance is put upon the presidential elections, but with all these offices up for grab the entire representation of Tennessee could change. It is always important to get out to the polls, but this is looking like an election in which every vote will truly matter.”
What are some common questions people have about voting?
“On a college campus there are a lot of questions pertaining to out-of-state voting and how to get an absentee ballot,” Smallwood said. “Students often ask for more information about candidates, specifically regarding their views and policies. Finally, and most importantly, through this event we are able to answer questions concerning when and where they can vote, and how their vote can make a difference in the election.”