EDINBURG — As the November general election approaches, sports organizations across the United States have committed to do their part to encourage and provide resources for people to get out and vote.
NBA franchises are planning on turning their arenas and stadiums into voting centers. The NFL recently launched “NFL Votes,” an initiative which focuses on voter education, voter registration, and voter activation.
Now, the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), the home of UTRGV, is jumping on board as the conference announced the implementation of WAC Votes, “a non-partisan voter awareness program in which all nine institutions are supporting the participation of willing and eligible WAC student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans in the upcoming November general election and in other local, state and federal elections.”
The initiative is a result of discussions held by the WAC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and is supported by the WAC Council. Representing UTRGV on the SAAC are men’s basketball player Jamal Gaines and women’s golfer Rachel Yu.
“WAC Votes’ goal is to educate student-athletes on the importance of voting and exercising their civic responsibility leading up to and beyond Election Day. The initiative will also provide student-athletes with non-partisan resources to promote voter awareness, access to education regarding state-by-state voter opportunities,” the WAC said in a Wednesday news release.
“It is liberating to emphasize the importance of exercising our civic responsibility to vote,” WAC SAAC President and New Mexico State swimmer Katherine Harston said. “As a group, WAC SAAC stressed that voter education is as important as voting itself. This initiative should be a priority to student athletes allowing us to voice why we believe voting matters.”
The WAC’s nine member schools — California Baptist, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, New Mexico State, Seattle, Tarleton State, UTRGV and Utah Valley — reside in seven states, so the WAC has created a web page ( WACsports.com/WACVotes) to help provide voting resources to support the initiative in each state. The WAC Votes page includes links to voter registration pages, ballot research information and absentee ballot information in Arizona, California, Chicago, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Washington state.
In addition to the educational aspect of the program, all WAC member institutions have agreed to establish Nov. 3 as a day off from all required athletically related activities, excluding competition, to provide student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans the opportunity to vote.