by Lauren Anderson, CVP Intern
In June, as part of the Voter Friendly Campus Designation, Campus Vote Project interviewed representatives from colleges and universities to learn about their democratic engagement practices and the impact those have on student voter participation. These representatives detailed efforts their campuses had undertaken to register, educate, and turn their students out to the polls. No two institutions are the same, so we included tips that a variety of colleges and universities could use. As your institution develops its campus plans for the Voter Friendly Campus designation, here are some practices you may consider.
- Begin registering students before they start classes. Students at SUNY Binghamton are given the opportunity to register during new student orientation. Getting students to register during their orientation is often easier to do before they start class and become busy with their new life as a college student.
- Develop targeted messages according to the needs of different students using publicly available information located at your local board of elections. Stetson University uses their students’ voting history to send targeted messages according to how they participated in past elections. For example, students who voted absentee receive emails on how to obtain and submit an absentee ballot, while students who voted early might receive information on nearby early voting locations
- Create nonpartisan guides and distribute them to students. Many students want to vote, but feel they don’t know enough to make an informed decision on the candidates or ballot questions. Nonpartisan guides with the positions of federal, state and local candidates are a start toward educating students who need to research the candidate. Information guides can also contain information on where to vote, how to vote, and what materials to bring to the polls.
- Secure a polling place on campus. Both James Madison University and SUNY Binghamton have polling locations on their campuses where students registered with their campus address can vote. Having a polling location located centrally on campus eliminates the transportation barrier for students and alleviates some of the confusion caused when students are assigned to various polling locations off of the campus.
- Provide free shuttles to polls to make it easier for students to access the ballot if securing a polling location on campus isn’t an option. California University of Pennsylvania created a shuttle service that will transport students to any polling location within a 50-mile radius of the university on Election Day.
These are only a few examples of ways your institution can encourage student democratic participation. For more strategies your campus can use ahead of the general election, make sure to check the Campus Vote Project website and the NASPA Lead Initiative website for blog post that will be posted throughout the summer about promising practices being implemented on over a dozen campuses across the country. In the meantime, if your campus is participating in the Voter Friendly Campus Designation process, the above items can be included in your campus plan due on July 31st. You can upload your plan here.