Votruba: Get out and vote

Northern Kentucky University launched the first ever “Get Out the Vote for Democracy” initiative this semester to encourage citizens to vote on Election Day, Nov. 4.

As part of the initiative, NKU President James Votruba also declared Nov. 4 “Democracy Day.”

The initiative is a “long-term regional effort to advance the effective exercise of citizenship through informed voting,” according to the Democracy Day declaration.

“My hope is that by declaring Democracy Day, this will reinforce the importance of voting no matter who you vote for and that students and community members alike will become more involved in civic life, including exercising their right to vote,” Votruba said.

The Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement and NKU’s Office of Community and Government Relations have partnered with the Kentucky Post to coordinate the campaign.

Dr. Laurie DiPadova-Stocks, director of the civic engagement center, said that American citizens are blessed to be part of a democracy.

“We have a system that permits our voices to be heard, that protects our protests when we do not like what is happening, and permits citizens to be change agents to make things better,” she said. “When we go to the polls to vote, we are not only voting for a candidate, we are voting for our democracy. If we refuse to go to the polls to vote, then that shifts power to the hands of those that do vote, and our democracy is threatened.”

According to DiPadova-Stocks, the NKU initiative begins on campus but spreads throughout the region.

“This is another demonstration of how this institution and our president provides such great leadership for this area,” she said.

The “Get Out the Vote for Democracy” initiative does not just apply to NKU students. DiPadova-Stocks said that information has been sent to area employers in the hopes that they will set up their own “Get Out the Vote for Democracy” campaigns.

“What I hope will happen, is that they will flaunt the importance of voting in this election to their employees and make accommodations to be sure that their employees can vote,” DiPadova-Stocks said.

Employers can participate by urging their employees to vote on November 4, adjusting employees’ schedules so that they have the opportunity to vote, and encouraging employees to learn about the candidates and the issues.

The university has sponsored several activities this semester in an effort to bring political awareness to students. Events such as the gubernatorial debate between candidates Congressman Ernie Fletcher and Attorney General Ben Chandler, the Alumni Lecture Series, and the Faces of Engagement Interactive Workshop have taken place on campus as part of the initiative to educate and encourage students and other community members to vote.

In honor of Democracy Day, there will also be an essay contest open to NKU students and Northern Kentucky high school seniors. The topic of the essay is “WHY VOTE?” Six winning essayists will receive $100.

“One of the building blocks in any democracy is civic participation and involvement in civic life, and that includes voting,” Votruba said. “One of the troubling trends in the United States is that people are voting less, and that is true for young people as well.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, during the November 2000 election 45.4 percent of citizens ages 18-24 registered to vote. Only 32.3 percent of that number voted in the November 2000 election.

Although the deadline to register to vote for this year has passed, students can get a voter registration card and find out information about how to vote online for future elections at http://www.kysos.com/Elecfil/register/reginstruction.asp.

On Thursday October 23, 7p.m.-9p.m. in the Otto Budig Auditorium there will be National Issues Forum on the Economy called Pocketbook Pressures: Who Benefits from Economic Growth. This event is free to the public, call 572-1448 to register, space is limited.