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ConnPIRG is planning to have the largest and most aggressive voter registration drive the University of Connecticut has seen, as announced in their first meeting.
ConnPIRG is a nonpartisan, nonprofit statewide organization that works to inform and put issues in front of legislators in Hartford.
One of their goals for the next three months is to register 4,000 students and mobilize 12,000 to the polls to vote on Election Day.
Chapter treasurer Saman Azimi joined the organization as a freshman because he wanted to make a meaningful impact on the issues he cared about.
“There’s a serious problem right now,” Azimi said. “Not enough young people are participating. Young people, ages 18-29 are the largest demographic in America for the first time in years and we need to actually make our voices heard.”
PIRG has laid out three stages to accomplish their goal and show that young people are an important voter block.
They will have a recruitment drive, a voter registration drive in October, where they will reach out to different student organizations to further mobilize UConn students, and in the final stretch of the election period, they will have a Get-Out-The-Vote drive.
Walter Dodson, a first-year political science major, is interning with PIRG this semester.
Dodson believes this cause is important because this generation is underrepresented.
“Someone in my group made a good analogy,” Dodson said. “It’s like the gym, people know they should go but they end up not going.”
He believes that people in this country are blessed because they can have their voices heard.
The meeting hosted Mansfield Town Council member Mark Sargent, State Representative Gregg Haddad and Senator Mae Flexer.
Mark Sargent, a UConn graduate, had previously run for election and wanted to make sure people understood the importance of getting involved.
Sargent said people, especially millennials, are frustrated because they are being ignored and they are ready for something bold.
“Unfortunately, what we are seeing in Washington and in Hartford are people being promised so much (by politicians) and those promises not being fulfilled,” Sargent said.
He says that it is important for young adults to get involved because all politics are local.
“Something that our generation could be better at is focusing in local politics,” Sargent said. “It’s in local politics where you see your dollars.”
Gregg Haddad, state representative for Mansfield, has come to PIRG every year in the last few years.
Haddad congratulated the organization in their efforts because he believes that all politics start with issues people care about and that solutions we come up with together.
Last year PIRG and Haddad worked for an affordable college education and they accomplished this by creating a PILOT program for open-source textbooks.
The program has reduced the cost of textbook for General Chemistry students, with plans to expand to larger enrollment classes in the near future. Open-source textbooks provide students with access to free downloads on a computer or tablet and a lower price for print texts.
“I agree that young people need to be get actively involved in politics,” Haddad said. Young people have a lot of great ideas about reforms that we can make in Hartford.”
State senator Mae Flexer, another graduate of UConn, wanted to thank PIRG for being a great partner for different issues in Hartford.
She wants to keep working toward issues that people care about such as expanding open source text-book; “Yes mean Yes,” a sexual violence awareness campaign; and the improvement of environmental issues.
After the election period, Conn PIRG will work on three other student-lead campaigns.
These include: getting big money out of politics, banning bottled water on campus and hunger and homelessness initiatives.
These issues are brought up to the legislature in Hartford by Evan Preston, the ConnPIRG state director.
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