Coalition of Community Social Workers to help campus community with voter registration

Issa and Zettner

Registering to vote will be quick and convenient for the Wayne State community on Sept. 25, when the university’s Coalition of Community Social Workers student organization and the nonprofit NextGen America will team up to observe National Voter Registration Day with a campus-wide campaign to increase attendance at the polls.

Volunteers from the CCSW, NextGen and the student body will be stationed at tables across main campus to answer questions about the voting process, register voters, and encourage individuals to sign pledge cards stating their commitment to vote in the November elections. The registration campaign will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

CCSW co-presidents Meriam Issa (below, right) and Catherine Zettner (below, left), both of whom are M.S.W. students in the macro concentration, said the student organization met to kick off the academic year and found the consensus among members was to make voter registration, education and mobilization the initial focus of the semester.

“The core values of social work can be practiced on a policy level, and one of the best ways to influence policy is to vote,” said Zettner. “We are seeing upsets in elections around the country because more and more people are recognizing their power as voters, and we want to ensure our communities know that power.”

Issa and ZettnerZettner said NextGen is training university students to brief their classmates about voter registration and the importance of voting, and that CCSW is encouraging WSU students across campus to obtain permission from professors to allow them a moment of class time to explain the importance of voter engagement and to register voters in class. The deadline for registering to vote in Michigan is Oct. 9.

Meanwhile, members of CCSW are also working with the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Social Workers to support the campaign of Senator Debbie Stabenow by helping staff phone banks and canvassing door to door. Issa said the presence of social workers in the community engaged in election and voter registration initiatives is part of the profession’s emphasis on “building relationships and making the community more interconnected.”

“People often don’t vote because of various systematic barriers and mistrust, but social workers leverage the trust of the community and can help make those who are skeptical more open to civic engagement,” Issa said. “This is especially true when they dispel misinformation about the voting process and empower people to know their rights and use their voice.”

Social Work faculty member Judith Wineman, who with M.S.W. advisor Tamarie Willis serves as faculty liaison to CCSW, said the organization “has embraced the voting initiative with a clear focus on the social justice mandate of our profession.”

“This year, more than ever, social work needs to lead the charge to register, educate and mobilize voters,” Wineman said. “CCSW students are leading the way.”

CCSW’s next meeting is on Sept. 24 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in room 413 of WSU State Hall. Zettner and Issa said the organization welcomes students from all disciplines to the meeting to learn more about the voting initiative and how to get involved. Students interested in tabling at the Sept. 25 registration event can sign up here. For more information on Sept. 25 voter registration initiatives on campus visit the WSU Event Calendar here.  

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