Students at the Harvard Institute of Politics Conference share ideas on registering voters on campus

by Hannah Smith, CVP Field Director

Last weekend Mike Burns, the Executive Director of Campus Vote Project, and I went to the “Campus Activation: Increasing Student Voting and Political Engagement” conference hosted by HarvardHarvard IOP conference University’s Institute of Politics.

Conferences like this are great learning experiences for Mike and I. In addition to meeting administrators from all over the country, we also heard about the wonderful work students from 28 campuses are doing to engage voters at their schools.

Some examples of campus work included mayoral forums at the University of Southern California, tabling at high profile student events at Kansas State and creating a student-led coalition that has organized into a lean, mean, voter registration machine at University of Florida.

On Sunday CVP was part of a panel focusing on the institutionalization of voter registration programs on campus. We, along with Sam Novey of the National Student Vote Challenge, and Vashti Selix, formerly of the Oregon Student Association and currently of the AIDS Action Committee, spoke to students about involvement with voter registration efforts and the best-practices we’ve accumulated from our work with students across the U.S.

After the panelists discussed their experiences from college campuses and working with administrators, we asked students to describe what voter registration activities and efforts have worked at their schools. Mike spoke about how to work with administrators and answered lingering questions students had about voter ID laws in their state.

A tremendous example of registering student voters came from the Oregon Student Association. Vashti shared how she registered 55,000 Oregon students in the most successful voter registration drive Oregon students have ever seen. The most successful tactic she noted was bringing representatives from the Oregon Student Association to classes and getting a few minutes from each professor to present and collect voter registration forms.

Events like this are incredibly useful for Mike and me. Having so many students and leaders in the same room, exchanging ideas is a unique opportunity to learn from people on the ground. Listening to the fantastic work students and administrators are doing is also a chance for us to network and find potential new partners. We look forward to continuing these conversations and working with these schools in the future.

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