Coalition educates

Florida A&M University’s Vote Coalition is mobilizing efforts to make students aware of the importance of voting in this year’s presidential election.

According to its Historical and Evolution document, which provides details about the creation of the coalition, the United States Student Association selected FAMU as a participant in the Electoral Action Project in March 2004. The USSA chose 20 colleges in “swing states” – states where votes could go to either the Democratic or Republican Party – to participate in the project.

The USSA presented the idea of forming the coalition to members of the Student Government Association. The document said members of SGA then discussed the University’s role in the upcoming presidential election and formed the coalition. A representative from the USSA was not available for comment; however, coalition co-chair Philip Agnew said the group has started off strong.

“I think our initiative has definitely gained momentum since the beginning of the year. We have had the support of on-campus organizations, Citizen Change, Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit and MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign,” said co-chairman Phillip Agnew, 19, a sophomore business administration student from Chicago. According to its Web site, Citizen Change, which is sponsored by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with a mission to educate, motivate and empower the more than 42 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 for the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Agnew said that although the registration deadline has passed, the coalition is still making efforts to educate voters.

“We are passing out flyers and pamphlets with information about the bills that Congress is passing that will impact black voters,” Agnew said.

In an effort to reach its goal, the coalition had been registering students to vote since March. Members of the coalition said they are certain its goal will be achieved.

“I personally believe that we have definitely gotten on the right track in educating the voters on campus, on the opinions and beliefs of the candidates vying for their votes,” said Lauren Grant, 21, coalition chairwoman and a senior business administration student from Columbia, S.C.

The coalition is an entity of SGA’s Department of Student Lobbying. As director of the department, Grant serves as a liaison between FAMU and the Florida Legislature.

The department and the coalition will continue educating voters between now and the presidential election by sponsoring voting events. These events include a forum and a march to the polls for early voting. The locations of the events have not yet been determined.

“The coalition is trying to encourage early voting for students no matter what party they are in,” said coalition member Alexandra Judkins, 20, a junior business administration student from Chicago.

Although the coalition has approximately 60 student volunteers and numerous participants from campus organizations, organizers want more students to get involved.

“We are trying to empower the University by distributing as much information as we can,” Grant said.

“We want students to make sure that students are educated and aware so that they understand the importance of their votes in this year’s election.”

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