Story by Jordan Spurgeon
Back in February, Arizona State softball player Olivia Miller wanted to be active in getting Sun Devil athletes and staff registered to vote. She created a plan and brought it forward to one administrator, Deana Garner-Smith, the Senior Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator for Sun Devil Athletics.
“When she told me that she had a plan with charts and everything, I told her that’s great, but I didn’t need to see them,” Smith said. “Olivia has the drive to accomplish anything so I knew that her plan would be thorough and she’d execute it.”
Her plan was in motion before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all athletics. After the George Floyd incident in May, Miller felt like she needed to do even more.
“I had all this guilt that was weighing on me,” she said. “I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Where can I start? What am I passionate about, what do I know?”
Since then, Miller has been on dozens of Zoom meetings with the Sun Devil Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the Andrew Goodman Foundation, ASU athletics staff, coaches, athletes, and other student organizations on campus. Her goal is getting all eligible Sun Devil athletes and staff registered to vote by the October 5 Arizona deadline.
“I want people to realize that if they want to see change, that this is a way they can do it,” Miller said. “It’s kind of the first step into making change happen.”
ASU has a partnership with TurboVote to help track who is registered to vote. As of September 16, Miller said that 150 of 600 eligible athletes and staff were registered. However, she believes the number is closer to 300 because some were already registered and haven’t put their information into the TurboVote system.
Miller still wants to push for 100 percent voter registration in the athletic department, but realizes that it might not be feasible. She’s working with SAAC to get her message out to all of the teams.
“In all honesty, I’m appalled when I see the numbers and realize that not everyone is super supportive of this,” Miller said. “But I do realize that there’s tremendous support from many of my peers and that keeps me pushing forward.”
ASU football head coach Herm Edwards sat down with all of his players and helped them register to vote. Other teams have since followed suit, with women’s tennis being the latest to get all of its players registered.
— Arizona State Women’s Tennis (@sundevilwtennis) September 24, 2020
While not every athlete has bought into this initiative, Miller said she’s had tremendous support from administrators at Sun Devil Athletics and ASU.
One of those administrators is Alonzo Jones, the Associate Athletic Director for Inclusion and Championship Life. Jones described Olivia as a “renaissance person” because she is involved in and passionate about many avenues of life.
“She’s committed, dedicated, and has high energy towards her school work, athletic endeavors, and her civic duties,” Jones said. “She doesn’t just stay in one lane, which is a beautiful thing.”
After October 5, Miller’s goal is to help educate all registered voters on the importance of local elections. She said she will help inform those who end up not registering, so that they understand the process for next time.
“Yes, this year is important,” Miller said. “But, I want this to be a staple at ASU moving forward and not just be a one-off thing. This education will be important for years to come.”
The Special Assistant to the Athletic Administrator, Kim Desimone, echoes the sentiment for sustained civic responsibility within Sun Devil Athletics.
“Olivia, myself, and others are working on the next steps for after this election year,” Desimone said. “This is a movement, not a moment. It can’t just end with this year’s election.”
The NCAA has recognized election day, November 3, as an official off-day. Miller believes that demonstrates just how important this upcoming election is and hopes her peers understand the power of their voice come election day.
“I think we are lacking civic education to the fullest degree in this country,” Miller said.
Miller is a Tempe native who understands the importance of civic duty. Her grandmother, Kimberley Carr, has been a poll worker for as long as she can remember. Miller has always been inspired and informed by her.
After her college softball days, Miller wants to go to law school to become a criminal defense attorney in order to be a part of the change she hopes to see.
Spending a majority of her time on phone calls and meetings working on this initiative is demanding. Miller admits it’s difficult to balance her schedule, but she’s maintaining her high GPA while staying in shape for softball.
“I just have to be consistent,” Miller said. “I could probably slack off a little bit with that [homework] but that’s not happening if I want to get into law school.”