Student Voting 101: Campus Vote Project’s Online Town Hall
If you missed the Campus Vote Project (CVP) Online Town Hall, you can watch it in full here:
The town hall featured several leaders and student activists across the country, including Minnesota secretary of state Mark Ritchie, president of the Virginia NAACP Youth and College Division Da’Quan Love, and Dan Vicuna, coordinator of the Campus Vote Project and a staff attorney for the Fair Elections Legal Network. They discussed common problems faced by students who try to vote and possible solutions to overcome those barriers. The students in the town hall also offered helpful tips for organizers and activists on college campuses across the country who are trying to register and get out the vote this election season. Here are the highlighted issues accompanied by some manageable solutions:
Problem: Students are bombarded by misinformation about voting. How do we combat this?
Solution: There are several websites with nonpartisan voting guides, state-by-state information about voting laws that outline ID requirements and each state's deadlines. You can also contact your local election officials with your questions or concerns about voting. Once you educate yourself, be sure to share the information with your friends!
Here are a few websites to get you started: www.everyvotecounts2012.org, www.ourvoiceourvote.org, www.fairelections.com, and www.rockthevote.com.
Problem: There are approximately 46 million Millennials who are eligible to vote, and a whopping 10.8 million of them voted in 2008. Although the future prospects of the strength of the Millennial voting bloc looks good, with more Millennials getting older and becoming eligible to vote, the numbers from 2008 give them only a 24 percent turnout rate. That is compared to a turnout rate of 67 percent for voters aged 30 or older. How can we increase the youth participation rate?
Solution: Make voting a social event. Invite your friends to come with you to register, and if you register online, share the link with your social networks. If you or one of your friends has a car, drive together to the polls on election day. If you are voting absentee, print off a few extra ballots and offer them to any friends who are voting absentee too. Whatever you do, spread the word to your friends and colleagues and try to get as many young people engaged in November as possible.
Problem: Students often split their residency between their home and in their college town. Where should they register to vote?
Solution: Students should vote in whatever district they choose. If they have an emotional attachment to their home district, then they should vote there. On the other hand, if they want their voices to be heard in their local campus communities, they should cast their ballots in their college town. However, if you plan on voting in your college town, be sure your voting registration reflects your current address. For example, if you registered to vote during the last election cycle and have moved to a different dorm or apartment on campus, you must update your registration to reflect that change.
Tips for Student Groups:
1. Build Coalitions
Andy MacCracken of the National Campus Leadership Council stressed the importance of student organizations working together to build coalitions and pool resources to achieve common goals (like registering students to vote). He cited an example of College Democrats and Republicans along with other student groups coming together to register students to vote. These groups put aside their ideological differences and realized that the most important thing to achieve this November getting young people to the polls.
2. Work with Administrators
Having the help and support of your college administrators is extremely important when organizing campus. Gena Shelton, from Ohio Voice and Campus Vote Project Ohio, shared the story of a college in Ohio in which student organizations worked with the college administrators to create a website on which students can get information about voting laws in their district, register to vote, and get non-partisan information about the candidates. Without the help of administrators, student groups are commonly left without extremely important and credible resources such as the university website or the college listserv.
3. Share your Enthusiasm!
Minnesota secretary of state Mark Ritchie ended the town hall with the simple message of sharing your excitement about voting with your friends and classmates. He urged young voters to spread the excitement of election season, and to make a special effort to reach out and invite friends, colleagues, and family members to participate. If we can't break down the barriers to voting rights Voter ID legislation imposes on young people and other marginalized communities, the best thing we can do is get the word out continue to educate people on the issue.
Sydney Hofferth is a Communications Intern for Campus Progress. You can follow her on twitter at @squidhoff10.