OVIEDO, Fla. — It was a busy day for incoming students at the University of Central Florida as hundreds of freshmen starting their college careers moved into their dorms.
But it was also a busy day for state leaders and volunteers as they canvassed colleges across the state registering students and some first-time voters.
It’s called 'Dorm Storms,' a statewide event that state leaders like Rep. Anna Eskamani and Congressman Maxwell Frost in conjunction with other local organizations use to get the word out about voting rights and getting young voters registered.
On move-in day volunteers set up across several college campuses catching students as they explore the campus, helping some update their voter registration and address, and helping others register for the first time.
However, with recent restrictive voting policies causing mail-in ballots to expire and voters to re-submit request forms; additional policies like Senate Bill 7050, now change the old way of doing voter registration.
Eskamani said the law prevents certain people from handling voters' registration forms, but prior to the law, she'd give clipboards to every volunteer. Now the organization has had to adjust to SB 7050 and alter the process of registering to vote.
"There’s a $50,000 fine if for example a non-U.S. Citizen handles a voter’s registration form," Eskamani said. "That risk is so high that we cannot let every person hold a clipboard. So instead, we’re relying on QR codes, trying to send people to the online voter’s registration website."
Eskamani said the new law and the fear of fines not only impact the organizations trying to register people to vote, but it also deters people from spending the extra time to pull out their phones and follow the steps online, but it didn’t stop freshman Alex Neal from taking on the task.
"Everybody registers to vote, then you’ll feel like your vote really does matter when you actually see an action," said Neal. "If a lot of students register to vote and we see our impacts, then maybe you won’t feel that way, like they don't matter. I think just that first step needs to be taken," he said.
Neal shared that he’s always believed it was important to vote, and that he hopes that more students will take the responsibility seriously as well. He said now that he’s of age and registered he feels grateful for the opportunity to be represented.
In collaboration with Power for Florida, the dorm storm events were held across the state at other universities like Florida A&M University, (FAMU), Florida State, the University of Florida, FIU and several other community events.