SAAC spearheads voter registration initiative on campus
BY RYAN VENTRELLA
Programs across Longwood University Athletics are ramping up activity as they prepare to take the field this winter and spring, but this fall Lancer student-athletes have more than sports and academics on their minds.
As the country draws closer to a historic election on Nov. 3, the Longwood Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) has partnered with nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization VA21, which works to civically engage young voters in Virginia, with the goal of getting student-athletes at Longwood registered to vote.
VA21’s “Motivote” platform awards points to students across various checkpoints in the voter registration process, allowing groups within Longwood to compete for the most points, as well as pit Longwood against other Virginia universities in student participation.
SAAC President and Longwood Women’s Soccer Captain Madison Hommey is leading that campus charge and has challenged every Longwood program to get 100% of its student-athletes registered.
“In terms of athletics, we want to see if we can get 100% of each team registered, and we’ve made that a friendly competition,” Hommey said. “Once registered, Motivote lets you earn points for showing you have received your absentee ballot, that you’ve sent it back, that you checked your local election dates — a lot of little things. We have our athletics teams at Longwood, and our points also go to the greater Longwood team as we compete with other universities in Virginia to see if we can have the most points.”
Aside from simply gaining points, Motivote is loaded with resources to help educate voters and map out a voting plan to ensure their voices are heard in the coming election.
“It makes it very user-friendly,” Hommey added. “Once you put in your information, the site tells you your local election dates, when you need to have your absentee ballot requested, when you need it returned, etc. There are also other resources, including webinars on what candidates are on your ballot, how to research them and how to be active in general and how to encourage others to vote as well.”
This comes on the heels of the Big South Conference’s announcement this past summer that made Election Day a required off day for training and competition for all affiliated league members. The goal, Big South Commissioner Kyle Kallander said, is to encourage Big South student-athletes and staff to exercise their right to vote.
“For the first time ever, a student-athlete initiative was passed that says there can’t be any required activities on voting day, and I think we need to make sure we are making use of that and showing that it is important to student-athletes, because policies at the top affect us, whether we realize it or not — even just funding our athletic programs,” Hommey said.
“There are also so many things going on with name, image and likeness, and that happens at such a high political level — there are things that are going to impact us, and we need to make sure we are doing our duty to get the best out of that and make sure it’s an experience we want to have. Student-athletes are a large portion of the campus population, so we wanted to be a driving factor on our campus to encourage others to vote and be active citizens working for social justice. A lot of what we talk about right now in SAAC is how we can support Black student-athletes as well as other minority groups and people of color, so we want to take that and other social justice issues and translate it into our civic duty to vote.”
As a pivotal Election Day draws near, Hommey said she thinks it is important for student-athletes on the fence about voting to think about those who look up to them.
“One thing we forget is that we are role models for a lot of kids out there,” she said. “We don’t have to share political beliefs, but making sure we show it’s important to us to be active citizens and make the world a better place is important to that little boy or girl out there who is watching you play baseball, watching you play soccer, so that they can grow up to be more than an athlete and to be a part of society and feel valued and feel that they belong in that place.”