CHEYNEY STUDENTS GETTING OUT THE VOTE ON CAMPUS
American citizens have already begun casting their votes in the presidential election. As the first HBCU, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania has always valued political and social engagement. Voting is one of the pillars of civic engagement, and Cheyney officials have been working to build enthusiasm about voting and get the student body registered.
“Many of our students will be voting for the first time,” said Irma I. Aguirre, executive director of student affairs. “We wanted to make registration easy, but more importantly to share with them how important it is to exercise their rights.”
Students can cast their ballots in Delaware County’s Thornbury Township building, which is walkable from campus. Cheyney held four voter registration events during the fall semester that resulted in more than 100 students registering to vote for the first time.
The most recent event was held on October 14 and was held in conjunction with the “Shield the Vote” initiative, which is a non-partisan educational and awareness campaign to encourage voters to physically protect themselves at the polls by wearing a face shield along with their mask in the 2020 Elections. Shield the Vote and its partners, Verizon and Acushield, launched this historic campaign to distribute donated face shields around the country to help voters protect themselves as they go to the polls. The face shields were provided to students who registered to vote at the event.
“For over 18 years, I have been at the forefront of analyzing voter trends and needs,” said Shield the Vote Founder, Onida Coward Mayers. “Citizens should not have to decide between their health and exercising their constitutional right to vote.”
On October 3, Dr. Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, visited the campus and spoke with students on the significance of being involved in the political process. This event was part of the “reclaim your vote” effort to register and mobilize students to vote. The event was aimed at young African Americans who will be first-time voters. Morial’s message, Aguirre said, was succinct and to the point: voting is power. It’s the chance for their voices to be heard.
“We feel strongly that it is about motivating and educating voters on the options to vote,” Morial said in a media report. He has been quoted as saying the Black vote is the key to winning the presidency and winning elections at every other level.
These events followed multiple campus registration initiatives, starting with the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Links, Inc. “The Links is an international nonprofit corporation, established in 1946 in Philadelphia by Margaret Roselle Hawkins and Sarah Strickland Scott to respond to the needs of African Americans in the aftermath of World War II,” said Aguirre. “We’ve also collaborated with Cathy Knight of the League of Women Voters. They held a virtual registration event. Students who registered had a chance to win gift cards in a raffle.”
Cheyney President Aaron A. Walton and his wife, Dr. Gloria Walton, have been assisting students with filling out their registration forms. In the dining hall, students could register, or ask for a mail-in ballot if they were already registered.
To those students who feel their votes don’t matter, Aguirre said, “I tell them that if they don’t vote, their voices are never going to be heard. By voting, you’re becoming part of the broader social and political process.”