Bears at the Ballot, part of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, led about 37 students in a "March to the Polls" from the university to a local voting site to cast votes, Thursday, Oct. 22.
Students were provided masks that said “I am a voter,” made signs voicing their opinions on voting, and were escorted by UCAPD, who temporarily blocked off streets.
The group marched from the courtyard in front of Old Main to the Conway Regional Health System, where voting is provided to those registered to vote in faulkner county .
Along the way, students raised signs to promote voting and yelled various chants about seeking change.
Being the first March to the Polls event on campus, event organizers, seniors Greta Hacker and Javier Hernandez, found the march to be successful in what they were wanting to bring to the campus.
"We just think this is the season of change," Hernandez said, beginning to explain their motives behind organizing the event. "Young people are feeling more empowered than ever to go vote, so why not make it fun to go vote? We just really wanted to find a way to encourage people to vote and not be so scared to stand in those lines, but if they bring their friends, they'll be more willing to stand in their lines. It was right across the street from the university, so it was going to be an amazing opportunity for students to vote early because if most students don't vote with their friends, they're probably not going to vote at all."
In addition, Hacker said another motivation behind her involvement in organizing the event was the lack of voting on campus.
"We know that on our campus in the 2018 midterms we had a voting rate of about 30%, which we see as pretty unacceptable," Hacker said.
As for making voting fun, Hernandez said they provided the signs because they “just speak truth and power.”
“It really just shows other people that - yes, young people are engaged in voting, and yes, we actually care about policy, and yes, we care about social issues," He said.
"We have been noticing that young people have been voting kind of as an act of protest because they see there are a lot of societal issues with current administration or they see things that they are upset about," Hacker said, explaining her reasoning for providing signs.
"We've been evoking the civil rights movement,” Hacker said. “A lot of people have been doing that with the police brutality issues that have been emerging over the summer, so we wanted to evoke that same idea of, not civil disobedience, but of protest, of standing up for your rights.
And you get that image of a big group of people marching across campus, chanting and holding up signs. That harkens back to the golden age of civil rights and we really wanted to express that."
Carrying a sign that read "I'm voting because lots of people fought for me to have this right," junior Patoreus Lewis showed up to the march to voice her opinion and cast her vote.
"I feel like voting is very important, especially in the times we're living in," Lewis said. "In the past, lots of people have fought for us just to have this right to vote so we should be able to come out and exercise it in the way we're supposed to.”
For people on the verge of voting, Lewis said, "You've just got to do it. Don't be scared to do it. It's not a hard process, but it's going to be a harder process if we don't vote...Nothing is going to change if you just sit there."
"It's important because it gives you an opportunity to make decisions about the elected officials and the policies that affect your everyday life," Hacker said, sharing her view on the importance of voting.
"A lot of people think that it's not worth their time to be involved in politics or it's not worth their time to be interested in government, but I would say that's absolutely false because no matter what you do, every single aspect of your life is...connected to government some way or another."
Hernandez said that voting is important because it gives students an opportunity to create change.
"This is giving students the chance to really make a difference in their everyday lives," he said. "Not everything is national. We vote on local stuff all the time...That's something that we can make a tangible difference with in our lives and this is going to affect students everywhere."
Hernandez emphasized the importance of voting locally, encouraging that students be more involved in local elections.
Hernandez said he wanted students to “take back their power.”
“If students want a voice in making their schools better and making their roads better and just having a better quality of life, they should just go vote.”
For Hernandez, voting holds lots of importance in his life as he shared personal experiences of being from an immigrant family and the longing for more inclusivity at UCA.
"We have been trying to be as inclusive as possible. That's why we were inviting the Latino Student Association and the NAACP. We're actively reaching out to historically disenfranchised groups.
This is so important for me, especially within the Latin X population at UCA, because we're voting for people who can't. We're voting for immigrants' rights. We're voting for rights of people who otherwise really don't have a say in this democracy.
Being a child of immigrants, it's so impactful for me to be able to help represent family members who might not have a say."
Although this was the first March to the Polls event at UCA, Hacker and Hernandez hope to see the tradition carried out on the UCA campus after they graduate.
"Regardless of the turnout, which we were really happy with, we just really wanted to plant the seeds," Hernandez said. "We didn't know what to expect, but we're happy with it and we really just want to pave the way for other students who want to become more civically engaged to just go out and do it and not be afraid."