UMBC’s SGA, in association with the College Democrats, College Republicans and other student groups, hosted a variety of events leading up to the 2018 midterm elections.
The first big event was the voter registration drive on voter registration day. The drive allowed students to register and pledge to vote. According to SGA president Collin Sullivan, a senior majoring in information systems and economics, the event attracted “over 100 to take the ALL IN campus pledge saying they were going to vote.” ALL IN is a campus democracy challenge that encourages college students to become more involved in their political community. This is the first time the SGA has done this for a midterm year, but they have done similar events for presidential races. The SGA did not have any numerical goals; their objective was “to make people aware of the midterm elections,” Sullivan explained. He called it a “win” and a great look for the SGA.
The second event was Coffee and Conversation, which focused on healthcare. The event allowed for dialogue and discussions between the College Republicans and College Democrats. The issues discussed within the topic of healthcare ranged from healthcare as a right to issues with healthcare prices.
Another event was the Baltimore County Executive forum, which featured a debate between Johnny Olszewski Jr. and Al Redmer Jr. The forum allowed both candidates to answer questions that affected both Baltimore County residents and UMBC students.
SGA also provided free early voting buses for students. They provided rides to Montgomery County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Anne Arundel County. They first picked the counties based on those most adjacent to Baltimore County and then by population. The voting locations were chosen by assessing the ones closest to the campus in those counties. The goal was to incentivize students to vote and remove the barrier of finding a way to get to the polls.
According to Sullivan, the early voting program “was far from perfect.” He says it was their first time and they could have done better with the organization behind it. He also brought up ways they may do things differently next time. Instead of traveling to different counties each day, he wants to have 3-4 buses on Saturday which would all leave at the same time.
Additionally, the SGA hosted a Dinner with Friends session. The goal of the event was to make students aware of local issues and get more interested in Maryland politics.
All of this led up to the big event: the Election Night Extravaganza. Students watched the results of the election while eating pizza and enjoying each other’s company. According to Sullivan, about “250 people got pizza” during the election night. He also said that from data that about 300 to 325 people went to programs; during the 2016 election, the number was around 400 to 450. Taking into consideration that the 2016 number was for a presidential election, the Election Night Extravaganza was deemed was a success.
Sullivan stressed the importance of voting and civic engagement. He said that it is similar to the SGA’s philosophy “of recognizing students’ voice.” The SGA has “a firm belief that everyone should have a saying in co-creating our democracy and the world we live in.”