With the presidential election just six weeks away, Michigan State Athletics along with local election officials and MSU Vote held a Voter Registration Rally Tuesday night to help encourage local civic engagement. The rally was part of a celebration of National Voter Registration Day and was held virtually.
The webinar started off with an energetic message from MSU men’s basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo about why it is important to vote.
“People gave their lives for us to vote," Izzo said. "It does not matter who you are or what you are, there are so many people that fought for the freedoms that we have to have the ability to vote. And I think it is important to get out and use those freedoms."
Izzo said he has been guilty in the past of believing that his vote does not matter. However he now believes that voting is an opportunity to be a difference maker, similar to sports.
“We always talk to our players about ownership," Izzo said. "I think by voting it gives you a chance to have some ownership in your community, in the city you are from, in the state you are from, and even in the country you are a part of."
Izzo also stressed that election season should be a time of unity where even sports fans can put their rivalries aside.
“This is one time you can be a Michigan fan, you can be anything because in this vote there is no team. Everybody should get out and vote,” Izzo said. "I do not like Michigan that much, but today I am a Michigan fan, I am an Ohio State fan. I think everyone should get out and vote.”
The leadership and message to vote by Izzo has been received by his players. In a video tweeted by the MSU Basketball account, every player on the roster has been registered to vote.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson then gave a presentation with information on how to vote, how to register to vote, how to receive an absentee ballot and how the voting process works.
The middle of the webinar was opened up for questions. Benson along with East Lansing City Clerk Jennifer Shuster and others addressed questions such as voting out-of-state, absentee ballots and registering to vote.
Absentee ballots this year are more important than ever before. Michigan State Community Liaison Suchitra Webster said that requests for absentee ballots in East Lansing have gone from 1,504 in 2016 to 8,532 for this year's election. In Ingham County, 17,671 residents requested an absentee ballot for the 2016 election. 76,066 residents in Ingham County have requested absentee ballots so far in 2020.
Webster was the moderator for the rally.
Michigan State President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. also made a short appearance, offering his encouragement to the community to vote.
First-year Michigan State football Head Coach Mel Tucker wrapped up the event with a short message encouraging Spartan fans to vote.
“No matter what side of the aisle that you vote for, red or blue, republican or democrat, make your voice be heard on November 3rd by voting," Tucker said. "To make democracy work, we all have to do our part, vote."
The voting rally was part of a partnership between MSU Athletics and the local community announced earlier this month. Other aspects of the partnership include a satellite voting location, early voting town halls and voting information PSAs on team social media accounts.
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