by Noah Martin
George Mason University hosted Feminist Majority Foundation representatives for their Get Out Her Vote 2008 campaign, a non-partisan campaign traveling to campuses nationwide to encourage voter registration and increase knowledge of the voting system. They spoke at multiple classes around campus on Sept. 17.
“The most important part of our message is to inspire the care behind civic engagement. The information is important, but come November 5, happy or sad, it is important to continue be active and civically engaged,” said Tania Stewart and Patrice Guillory, both national campus organizers for Get Out Her Vote.
Young women are the least registered population in the United States according to Stewart. If young women do not register and vote in elections, Stewart claimed, issues that affect them will never be addressed by candidates; rather candidates will disregard women’s opinions when considering campaign platforms because of non-participation. “We are here to inform voters, encourage voters to become knowledgeable about the issues that pertain to their experience, and get to the polls and vote,” said Stewart.
As members of the Feminist Majority Foundation, Stewart and Guillory delivered statistics about the situation of women across the globe. They claim that 70 percent of the impoverished around the world are women and the majority of workers in sweatshops are women.
After emphasizing the importance of involvement in civic affairs and the plight of women around the world, Stewart addressed practical information for voters. She explained, to the surprise of many students, that it was legal to vote wherever you attended college as long as you had a physical address. She explained the deadlines for registering to vote in the national election, the regulations pertaining to absentee ballots, the 100 dollar pay for working at the polling stations and the importance of filling out a provisional ballot if the polling center did not have an individual on their list. “Do not leave without voting,” proclaimed Stewart.
Guillory had a message for women of color in particular. Guillory is the organizer of a bi-partisan political conference Women of Color. The second annual conference will be held at Bennet College in North Carolina. “Women need a place where they can meet and find others with similar experiences and goals. The conference is really about getting together, finding something you are passionate about and creating a plan to pursue that goal.”
“The conference has bloomed out of my own experience. When I went to a liberal arts school I had to start asking myself, ‘Where do I fit? How do I fit? What can I bring to the table?’” Guillory said.
There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction from students to the message of Get Out Her Vote 2008. “I enjoyed the message and have already decided my vote and am not going to change, but it made me wonder, ‘What am I doing to be involved?’” said Yvonne Woodhull, a junior sociology major.
Another student was struck by the particularity of Guillory message. “I appreciated how she talked about being a woman of color in particular. She didn’t separate woman and color and address them as two separate things but talked about women of color. I did want them to talk about the role of women in the election more and, what about the transgender community?”
When asked about their experience while speaking at and touring Mason, Stewart responded, “I was overwhelmed when we came on campus. Sometimes we go to schools where there seems to be no information available to students. But when we came here, I saw the Mason Votes banners, the tables for voter registration, and even campaign representatives walking around campus polling students.”
Ingrid Sandole, Professor of Sociology, thought it was important to bring the representatives from the Feminist Majority Foundation to her class. “It is important for students to know what organizations are out there and what information they are delivering,” Sandole said. “When speakers like this come to class students get the influence of peers and can see how the abstract theory meets up with practice.”