Moving into elections: RSOs help navigate unfamiliar elections

By Jonathan Alday, Assistant Sports Editor

One of the greatest shifts adults face when turning 18 is accepting the responsibility of voting in elections. With most students holding primary residences outside of the Champaign-Urbana area, navigating elections often comes with struggles of voter registration, knowing where to vote and finding the resources and information about who to vote for.

“I think it’s super important to know about topics and issues,” Christian Reynolds, sophomore in Engineering and a Normal, Ill., native, said. “I don’t know as much about specific Illinois candidates, though.”

In the newly redrawn Illinois 13th Congressional District, Champaign-Urbana residents will choose between Republican candidate Regan Deering and Democratic candidate Nikki Budzinski. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is also on the ballot, facing Republican Darren Bailey to earn a second term.

The 2022 midterm election ballot also includes elections for Illinois’ attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer, state house, state senate districts and a referendum regarding a collective bargaining amendment to the Illinois Constitution.

With media focus varying from race to race, political RSOs like the Illini Democrats, Illini Republicans and Turning Point USA at UIUC, among others, try to fill in the gaps in election information.

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Ben Rinker, senior in LAS, serves as the president of the Illini Democrats. Rinker said his organization has been good at connecting students with local officials and office seekers.

“Our role is being that connection between politicians and the University (community),” Rinker said. “We are generally good at getting candidates out to speak with students. We have a ‘Get Out To Vote’ committee that has been working very hard these last eight weeks to put together information.”

While Rinker and the Illini Democrats have taken a more hands-on approach to election season, others are restricted by the nature of their organization, such as TPUSA at UIUC. Michael Frank, senior in LAS and spokesperson for TPUSA at UIUC noted the nonprofit aspect of their organization.

“We’re a nonprofit organization, so we don’t make endorsements, just suggesting people to vote,” Frank said.

With multiple resources available to students, the next step is getting to the polls. For students who are voting outside of the 13th district, knowing how to request a mail-in ballot or finding a way to go back home creates a barrier to participation.

“I was gonna do a mail-in (ballot) or just drive home for a moment,” Reynolds said. “I mostly can because I have a car, but without it would make it hard just to go vote.”

For voters whose voter registration address lies in the Champaign-Urbana area, early voting has already started and goes up to election day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Illini Union. The Union will also host election day voting on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We’ve had a pretty positive response for the most part,” Rinker said. “People want this information. People want to be registered to vote. They want to vote. They want to make their voices heard.”


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