Youth virtually engage their peers on National Voter Registration Day

Press Release |

For Immediate Release

For More Information:
Caroline Munn, CONNPIRG Students Chapter Chair at Trinity College, 516-851-6261, [email protected] 
Samantha Gibb, MASSPIRG Students Statewide Organizing Director, 608-385-1285, [email protected] 
Manny Rin, Student PIRGs New Voters Project Director, 925-234-1457, [email protected]

HARTFORD CT – Although COVID-19 has reshaped the election landscape in 2020, as in the past, motivated young Americans are leading the efforts to mobilize their communities this fall, even with minimal face-to-face interaction on campus. On National Voter Registration Day (Tuesday, Sept. 22), college student leaders with MASSPIRGs’ New Voters Project launched their fall campaign efforts to reach thousands of students over social media by organizing diverse coalitions of student groups on campus and holding virtual events to register and contact youth voters. 

While traditional on-campus outreach has halted across most of the country, students are still focused on using personalized tactics to mobilize young people — the largest potential voting bloc in the United States. 

“Voting is the most powerful way we can make our voices heard. The coronavirus pandemic has complicated the process, so we are building large, diverse coalitions on our college campuses to push for safe voting policies,” said Caroline Munn, CONNPIRG Students New Voters Project Coordinator and Senior at Trinity College, “National Voter Registration Day is just the first step in our effort to turn out students this November.”

The goal of this year’s National Voter Registration Day is to increase participation in democracy by registering, educating, and activating students in the campus community. 

CONNPIRG launched the day with a webinar and a civic engagement panel with a variety of speakers including student leaders, campus staff and administrators, and public officials. 

“Exercising your right to vote is so important in this American election process,” wrote Denise Merrill, the honorable Secretary of State of Connecticut, in a statement provided for the event, “Today, on National Voter Registration Day, we should all honor this civic duty and make our voices heard, especially young people like yourselves.”

In the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, college students turned out to vote at double the rate from the last midterm, according to a report from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE), housed at Tufts University. 

Nancy Thomas, the Director of the IDHE addressed student volunteers who joined a similar event in Massachusetts today, “to all first-time and youth voters: You are an influential group, larger now than the boomers, who have been driving public policy for decades. Use your power. Vote!”

National Voter Registration Day provides a spring-board for many colleges to launch their youth voter engagement efforts. Angela Barney, Assistant Director of the Program in Community Action at the Holleran Center, at Connecticut College described a series of events planned this week to help engage students in democracy. 

“The youth vote has the potential to be extremely influential in this country,” explained Barney, “This year, 4 million Americans will turn 18 for the presidential election, and young voters make up 40% of the vote.” 

Although virtual learning has brought a number of challenges to building community and getting students involved on campus, there are plenty of faculty and staff on college campuses who are ready to spread the word and give student volunteers the platform they need to reach their peers.

“We know from recent political science literature that millions of college students aren’t registered to vote. But it isn’t because they’re apathetic,” said Abigail Williamson, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy & Law at Trinity College, “A lot of young people just don’t know how to start.” Williamson is also the Director of the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER).

“As a professor, I feel a responsibility to provide that information to my students so that they know how to exercise their voice in this crucial election,” said Williamson.

Student volunteers are joining virtual National Voter Registration Day events happening on campuses across the state this week. Events planned by student coordinators are focused on “relational organizing”, which involves asking students to text friends and post on their own social media sites with a link to studentvote.org to update their registration and pledge to vote safely. 

CONNPIRG’s efforts focus on peer-to-peer interactions to mobilize students to turn out to vote, but in this virtual world, campus staff and administrators are critical to achieving a high voter turnout. Part of the strategy to increase voter turnout involves engaging sports teams, greek life, and student groups in friendly competitions to help infuse civic engagement into their regular campus life activities. 

“I believe that it is so important to spread the word about voting,” said Jordan Lewis, Vice President of Communications of the Student Government Association at Trinity College, who spent his summer participating in census outreach and political campaigns.

“Democracy gives us the perfect platform – regardless of race, religion, or creed – to come together so we can put forward solutions that are in our interest.” said Lewis.

Throughout the week, and until the voter registration deadline on Tuesday Oct 27th, hundreds of student volunteers will help thousands of their peers update their registration status, and create a culture of voting in their campus communities with the goal of doubling turnout in 2020 from 2016.

“Right now, young people are fired up — going to protests and signing petitions. We need to make sure we make our voices heard on Election Day as well,” said Munn,  “In an online world, young people are uniquely set up to organize others. It’s time we show the country that America’s largest generation votes!”

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Follow National Voter Registration Day activities through social media on September 22 by searching #PIRG, #NVRD,  #NationalVoterRegistrationDay, #CampusTakeover

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The Student PIRGs  voter registration and turnout effort is part of its New Voters Project campaign, one of the largest nonpartisan youth voter mobilization efforts in the country. The Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project has run peer-to-peer student voter mobilization drives to turn out the youth vote on college campuses for more than 30 years. Its philosophy is that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. The New Voters Project does not endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, a political candidate or political party for elected office.

 

Founded in 2012, National Voter Registration Day is designed to create an annual moment when the entire nation focuses on registering Americans to exercise their most basic right—the right to vote. Nearly 3 million Americans have registered to vote on the holiday since the inaugural National Voter Registration Day in 2012.