Forward Montana worked with ASMSU, the College Democrats, College Republicans and the Young Americans for Liberty to put on MSU’s first annual Student Voter Day. The event took place on the mall Tuesday, Oct. 27 with hope to boost the involvement of students and young people in the upcoming elections.
Kiah Abbey, Bozeman director of Forward Montana, a non-partisan political activism group, said that the goal of the event is not to push a particular political agenda but rather “to create excitement around voting.” Forward Montana’s goal is to “move Montana not left, not right, but forward.” The groups involved in making Student Voter Day happen include a wide variety of political values, all coming together with the goal of boosting awareness of the upcoming elections. Students handed out over 1,500 voter guides for the city elections, 500 stickers and 150 pins. While only 12 students utilized the ballot collection service, Abbey estimated that over 2,000 people were reached by Student Voter Day.
Outside of simply handing out swag to students on campus and collecting a few ballots, representatives from each involved group answered questions about the election to help students get a better idea of how the election process works. Abbey said the event did more than just answer questions about the mechanics of the voting process. “We were excited to create an opportunity where the heavy lifting of voting is researching candidates that reflect your values,” she said, “then figuring out the logistics [of elections] is easier.”
Young Americans for Liberty also ran a free speech wall where students could write down their ideas for all to see. Abbey said that this was popular because of how fundamentally important free speech is to society. The free speech wall was built with hopes of getting students excited about the rights offered in the US.
Local businesses provided funding for this event. Taco del Sol, Whistle Pig Korean, Erotique, Columbo’s Pizza and Pasta and Wild Joe’s coffee all supported the event financially as sponsors.
Abbey stressed the importance of sending this year’s mail-only ballots in before Oct. 31 to assure they arrive by election day on Nov. 3. Those not registered to vote can do so at the courthouse on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street. While not recommended by Abbey, voting and registration is open until 8 p.m. on election day.
Forward Montana is a “homegrown, statewide, youth-led, grassroots organization.” Voter guides handed out to students say that the organization hopes to “train, mobilize and elect the next generation of young leaders in the state of Montana.”