Now in the third year of its Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) college program, the Southwest School of Art (SSA) in downtown San Antonio was one of several local colleges and universities to take part in the 2016 National Voter Registration Day. Local nonpartisan registered nonprofit MOVE SA coordinated events across town and sent volunteers, registration forms, and chalkboards to college campuses throughout the city.
“I feel like I’m impacting the community in a positive way,” said volunteer Johanna Strange, who participated in the voter registration event at the SSA campus. An acronym for “Mobilize, Organize, Vote, Empower, San Antonio,” MOVE SA volunteers said the organization is “grassroots, nonpartisan, and all about organizing San Antonio, face-to-face. We give people their first taste of delicious democracy, develop new leaders and use person-to-person politics to move San Antonio – and Texas – forward. Not just left or right, but forward.”
Having worked for MOVE SA since she was a student at UTSA, Strange describes the organization as so passionate about its mission, “it’s contagious.”
John Guzman was one of several college students at SSA that registered to vote during the event Tuesday. “I actually have never voted. This will be my first time,” he said.
Students like Guzman are the target audience for MOVE SA, which was established to get young voters – especially college students – to the polls.
Seeing that the nonprofit’s missions complement those of the school, SSA was happy to welcome MOVE SA to its campus to register anyone eligible to vote.
While much of the event was about making civil engagement fun, complete with water balloons, a robot named “Vote-Bot” and a student made photo booth, there was also a more serious side to the observance of National Voter Registration Day.
Speaking on the importance of young people voting, SSA President Paula Owen stated, “Our democracy can only be sustained with the active participation of citizens. Plus, when you vote, you have skin in the game. You tend to care more about the decisions your elected officials make. So it’s a two-way benefit. Young voters especially will feel the impact of this election because of the probability that the makeup of the Supreme Court will change in the next few years.”
First year BFA students Noemi “Liz” Silva and Abbey Alvis both registered out of concern for the nation’s future.
“The women before (us) fought so hard to gain this right,” Alvis said after she finished filling out her registration form. “I should keep it going.”
Some students also cited concern about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as well as his stance on several social rights policies.
“We just got gay marriage legalized, and now he wants to take that back,” said Silva who, like Alvis, will be voting in her first election this November. “He’s anti-feminist. He’s a jerk.”
As a nonpartisan event, both major party candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s faces were printed out as target options for water balloons. Third-party candidates were not absent from the conversation either.
“I think young people don’t vote because they think their voice doesn’t matter. They think they’re not going to be able to make a difference,” third-year BFA student Gabriella Borrego said. She added that when it comes to voting for a third party candidate, “they just think they’re wasting their vote.” Borrego believes that if enough voters are willing to band together to support a third-party candidate, it will make a difference.
By the end of the event roughly half of the student body as well as faculty and staff had either registered on site or included a memo about why they registered on the chalkboard provided by MOVE SA. As the inaugural event of its kind at the campus, the turnout was considered a full-on success.