Written by: Jorge Pontarelli
This week, Southern Votes is making a comeback after one year of inactivity.
Xavier Snyder, a 2022 former Southern student with a bachelor’s degree in history, started the nonpartisan, student-led initiative two years ago to help and encourage students to vote in the 2020 presidential elections.
“Many of the people in our generation that I talked to were excited to vote for the first time but didn’t know how to vote,” wrote Snyder in an email to the Accent. “I saw this as a potential issue in the summer of 2020 and started working almost immediately to put together a comprehensive and student-led voter registration initiative that would include everyone, liberal and conservative.”
According to Snyder, the group registered over 400 students to vote in the 2020 general election. In the email, he explained how the group helped students with the voting process.
“We provided important information on how to vote by mail in all 50 states. We worked with various clubs and faculty groups to enhance our program,” Snyder wrote. “We hosted debate watch parties to make sure student voters were going to make informed decisions with their ballots, and we even worked on Election Day to provide rides to the polls and water to folks waiting in line.”
He added that he created this initiative to ensure that the incoming generation of voters has a voice in a nation where he felt like decisions were primarily made by older individuals.
Amy Van Arsdell, a junior with a double major in history and Spanish, was part of Southern Votes over two years ago and has now taken over the movement in partnership with the Pre-Law Club to provide information regarding voting in both Tennessee and students’ home states.
“Our goal is to help students register to vote … and get their ballot mailed to the dorm,” said Van Arsdell.
For its first event, the organization is partnering with the Social Work Club with the purpose of registering students to vote in the 2022 midterm elections scheduled for Nov. 8.
When Morgan Garcia, senior social work major and vice president of the Social Work Club, was asked why the club is partnering with Southern Votes, she informed the Accent via text, “As a club, we are passionate about using our voices to advocate for our beliefs and empowering others to do the same.”
As of Monday, Sept. 19, the partnered clubs were planning to have a booth on the promenade behind Wright Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday, from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm.
“Just because you are away from home doesn’t mean you can’t vote,” said Van Arsdell.
“I look forward to seeing the great work that Amy and others will do with Southern Votes and want to strongly encourage anyone reading this to take the first step in making sure your vote is counted this election,” Snyder wrote. “And, if you’re already the kind of person who votes regularly, my hope is that you will get involved with helping others take their convictions, frustrations and enthusiasm to the polls this year.”