Don’t be Spooked by the Ballot – 4 Creative Ways to Get Out the Vote

Pictured Above: Montclair State University students attend the 2018 National Voter Registration Day event.

“Don’t be spooked by the ballot!” That is the message the Vote Everywhere team at Montclair State University has for their 17,000 students. The message, which is the namesake of the event occurring on Halloween Day, is a final push to engage and inform students about the importance of showing up to the polls just 6 days later. The essence of that message is being remodeled and reframed all across the Vote Everywhere network in 24 states and Washington, D.C.

In less than 7 days, students across the country will be watching the 2018 Midterm Elections unfold. Vote Everywhere (VE) teams are working diligently to ensure that when results for local and state elections are aired on TV screens and published in newspaper articles, students know their voices mattered. Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts are a hallmark element of VE civic engagement work. Here are four tips from our Vote Everywhere Campus Partners that have pushed the envelope on making young voices and votes heard in our democracy.

1. Give students a chance to meet candidates personally

Nothing beats a party at the polls, except a party at the polls where you can meet the candidates on the ballot! Western Carolina University did just that by organizing Democracy Day, which was held on October 30th from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Every candidate on the ballot was extended an invitation to attend. The purpose of the event was to help students feel confident when they cast their ballot at WCU’s on-campus polling place. However, it is still a party. The event will feature cookout-style food, t-shirts, inflatables, and games.

2. Share nonpartisan information about the election

Information is key to helping students, or anyone for that matter, cast an educated vote. At Binghamton University, the Vote Everywhere team will be co-hosting the NY22 Congressional Debate and will throw debate watch party on campus. The watch party will feature interactive activities to help students reflect on candidate responses and an opportunity for post-debate discussion. Lastly, the student newspaper has taken the lead this year on sending questionnaires to candidates for local, state and federal offices. The responses are shared in the newspaper and online for students to review.

3. Offer rides to the polls

One of Elon’s keys to success is its partnership with the Alamance County Board of Elections. Elon produces a book each year that is distributed through the board to local polling places and early voting sites that provides proof of residence and a physical street address for each student who lives on-campus. As a result, students who register to vote and cast a ballot during early voting, or arrive at their polling place on Election Day to find that their original registration application was not yet confirmed do not need any additional documents as proof of residence for their on-campus residence hall. Election officials also call Elon’s Vote Everywhere Campus Champion, Bob Frigo, directly to troubleshoot student voting issues.

According to Thomas Armooh, Vote Everywhere Team Leader and Elon Votes! Coordinator, “We’ve partnered with our university’s transportation department to offer free rides to the polls from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. There are two voting sites that Elon students will be going to depending on their on-campus address, and we use the Elon Votes! website and address books to direct students to the correct polling location.” The website also features a newly produced university video that captures thoughts from Elon President Connie Book and Elon students, faculty, and staff about the importance of voting in this November’s election.

4. Get other departments on campus engaged in GOTV

The SUNY Geneseo Vote Everywhere team is working with Residence Life on a “Bring your Hall to Vote” initiative. The team originally contacted the Director of Student Life to gauge the interest of Resident Assistants. Now, the team will be coordinating with RAs across campus as they knock on their residents’ doors and invite them to walk to the on-campus polling site!

While getting out the vote can be a tedious process, which requires knowledge of local voting laws, polling places, and even potential barriers to voting, Vote Everywhere teams believe it should also be fun. On any given day, including Election Day, GOTV efforts are competing with the dozens of events taking place at a college campus. These include the stress of midterm exams, Instagram feeds, break-ups, and sporting events. That’s why your GOTV efforts must be exciting enough to cut through the clutter of busy college life. Hannah Fraser, Vote Everywhere Ambassador at Western Carolina University, says, “We wanted everyone in attendance at Democracy Day to have a great time celebrating democracy! It was a huge party at the polls, and my friends and I couldn’t wait for it to happen!”

About the Author

Kevin Hurtado is the Communications and Development Associate at Andrew Goodman Foundation. He graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a Bachelor’s in International Studies and a minor in Human Rights and Genocide. Previously, Kevin worked as an Executive Assistant and Office Manager at Newark Charter School Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting educational equity in the city of Newark.