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Sunday, February 05, 2023

Tuesday's protest over University Police Department officers' Tasering and arrest of Andrew Meyer, a UF telecommunication senior, offered a chance for Chomp the Vote to increase its visibility, said a Student Government official.

Frank Bracco, co-director of Chomp the Vote, said he went to protests at Turlington Plaza and Emerson Alumni Hall to find "students who care."

"Since these are students who seem to care about issues, they should seem to care about voter registration, too," Bracco said.

On Wednesday, Chomp the Vote reached its initial goal of having 1,000 students register to vote or update their voter information to vote in Alachua County, Bracco said. The registrations were a result of the entire semester's efforts.

"We're very excited about that, and we're hoping we can keep up that momentum," he said.

Chomp the Vote is an SG program designed to increase voter turnout and education for all types of elections, he said.

After a successful premiere in 2004, when Chomp the Vote registered 8,000 voters, the organization practically disappeared for the next two years.

Bracco said the Chomp the Vote has turned itself around by becoming more visible, adding the organization is far from its final objective of registering 3,000 to 5,000 students.

Because of Bracco's appearance during the protest, Chomp the Vote drew mention on "The Sean Hannity Show," a conservative talk-radio show.

Hannity described Chomp the Vote as part of a liberal, left-wing conspiracy protest, Bracco said.

Then Chomp the Vote's other co-director, Tyler Antar, called Hannity and explained that they were just registering students to vote.

"[Hannity] was excited, so he mentioned Chomp the Vote again," Bracco said with a laugh. "He cleared us of being part of the liberal protest."

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The staff of about 25 tries to register students on Turlington Plaza at least three days a week.

About 20 fraternities and sororities have received voter registration forms, Bracco said. He is also planning to supply the remaining Greek houses with forms, he said.

Chomp the Vote will also host socials at the Campus Lodge and Campus Club apartment complexes in mid-October, he said. Attendees can swim, eat free food and register to vote.

Bracco said the complexes will host the events for free, but Chomp the Vote will pay for pizza, drinks and fliers. He added that he didn't know the exact cost.

"I'm hoping it will draw a lot of students," Bracco said. "It may not boost registration, but it will definitely boost awareness."

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