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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Students, officials promote absentee ballots

City and campus officials gathered at Memorial Union Thursday night to discuss the conflict between UW-Madison's spring break and April's general elections.  

 

Those hosting the discussion stressed the importance of generating a strong voter turnout and of absentee ballots. Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said it will be a ""huge challenge for campaigns"" come April and that every candidate, from mayor to alder, is stressing the need for the student vote. 

 

""Both the university and the city are stepping up to the plate and proposing to do everything we can to get students absentee ballots,"" Verveer said. 

 

Many candidates have said keeping a grassroots campaign is the most important way to get out the vote. Still, they realize a creative campaign slogan will reach out to voters in ways knocking on doors cannot.  

 

Alder candidate and UW-Madison sophomore Eli Judge, member of the College Democrats, said stressing the importance of voting to students is a ""vital"" part of the election outcomes in April. He said the group's idea of ""Vote Naked"" is a creative way to inform students about the absentee ballots. The idea is to let students know they can vote for the elections at home, without ever having to put clothes on. 

 

""Vote Naked is a phenomenal way to get the vote out,"" Judge said. ""It's sleek. It's sexy. It's something that catches the eye of students."" 

 

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Lauren Woods, a UW-Madison senior running against Judge, said creativity has played a key role in her campaign efforts. She also said informing students of the absentee ballot process is just as important as knocking on doors.  

 

""Students definitely have to take an extra step to vote, but students who are committed to voting have no problem with absentee ballots,"" Woods said. 

 

Despite the disadvantages that the overlap of spring break and April elections causes, both campus and city officials said they will do all they can to help ensure a strong voter turnout.  

 

LaMarr Billups, special assistant to the chancellor, identified the goals of the weeks preceding the election as ""[raising] the visibility of the election so [students] can vote before [they] leave, and make it as easy as possible."" Putting absentee application forms into the mailboxes of students living in residence halls is one possible solution. 

 

""We plan to do an e-mail blast,"" Billups said. ""We want to do one."" 

 

The chancellor's office said it wants to arrange shuttle vans to the City of Madison Clerk's office in order to help citizens vote early. In addition, Maribeth Witzel-Behl of the City Clerk's office said she plans to volunteer some of her time on campus so that students have the ability to register to vote on campus. She said that technically it is not legal, but once the circumstances were considered, the decision was easier for the city to support.

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