Athletic department, student-athletes pioneer voting initiative

The athletic department is rolling out an initiative to encourage voter registration before the November election, according to a press release Friday.

The #OnlyAtGW Voting Initiative seeks to increase voter registration and educate student-athletes on political issues and procedures by providing information about candidate platforms and how to request an absentee ballot, the release states. Players and coaches will pause athletic operations on Election Day to ensure a high voting turnout, aligning with an NCAA recommendation.

Junior and women’s basketball guard Maddie Loder said she was motivated to participate in the program after the police killing of George Floyd in May and the subsequent protests around the nation. Many members of the athletic community have voiced similar support for the movement on social media.

“It’s a testament to what people can do right now,” Loder said in the release. “If you’re out there thinking ‘Hey, I don’t know how to help.’ We’re telling you how you can help. If you go out and vote right now, you’re going to be helping. No matter who you vote for or what you do, it’s going to help. Because you’re fulfilling your civic duty.”

The initiative includes a speaker series and small group meetings to hold discussions about political issues. The speaker list will feature former student-athletes working in politics, including sailing alumna and 2014-graduate Kaitlin Denny, who serves as a special assistant to Senator Kamala Harris, D-Cali.

The initiative was created by student-athletes with a trio of juniors – Loder, gymnastics’ Olivia Raymond and SAAC president and women’s rower Lauren Bennett – the release states. Sarah Vollaro, the senior program associate of student-athlete development, has also worked alongside the student-athletes to organize the agenda.

Raymond said the initiative will encourage political action beyond their time at GW.

“It’s cool that the administration and coaches are passionate about getting us involved in more ways than saying we’re involved,” Raymond said in the release. “It’s about actually showing up, showing out and demonstrating how important it is to GW athletics and GW as a whole that we create this lifelong voter community.”

Bennet said the current COVID-19 pandemic is “waking up” many Americans to political issues in the nation. She added that the upcoming election is “crucial,” and voters need to be engaged.

“I think people are realizing that this election year, maybe unlike any other that we’ll experience for a long time, is crucial,” Bennett said in the release. “People are realizing the power of our voices and how important it is that we actually engage.”

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