Fall 2021 Roundup: Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere’s Semester Highlights
Students in 2021 faced seemingly insurmountable challenges, yet they rose to meet them every day. Morning headlines during the Fall 2021 semester brought news of COVID-19 variants, next rounds of shutdowns, record-breaking worker strikes, devastating hurricanes, and 19 states passing 33 anti-voter laws that will disproportionately affect vulnerable communities, like students and young people. When pro-voter legislation was introduced in the For the People Act, Freedom to Vote Act, and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, all three were filibustered. But the Fall 2021 semester also saw increasing glimmers of hope: a return to weekly tabling on the quad, the first in-person event in almost two years, albeit at a limited capacity and masked. What used to be a day in the life of a young organizer now feels extraordinary, but finally within reach again.
The last four months have flown by, as Andrew Goodman Ambassadors moved seamlessly between reacclimating themselves with in-person student life, celebrating national Civic Holidays, engaging their peers in pivotal local elections, making strides to institutionalize civic engagement on campus, and believe it or not, laying down the groundwork for the 2022 Midterm Elections. Our Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Network hosted 345 events, registered 4,124 students to vote, and engaged 90,730 students through their activities. Check out just a few of the many highlights from this semester of the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program below!
Voter Registration and Institutionalization
At Simpson College, Ambassadors registered voters and conducted a civic engagement presentation in every first-year “Foundations 101” class, a key part of the new civic engagement focused first-year curriculum that they advocated for over the summer.
- University of Alabama Andrew Goodman Ambassadors held a campus-wide referendum to measure support for recognizing Election Day as a holiday in federal election years. In an unprecedented turnout, over a third of the student body (just under 13,000 students) and 98% of all respondents voted in support of the measure. This is a major step towards getting official recognition from the university and designating Election Day as a holiday in future federal elections.
Civic and Voter Education
As part of their semesterly Civic Engagement Week, Alabama A&M University’s Andrew Goodman Campus Team held a series of events on topics like gerrymandering. They closed out the week with a trip to the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. They organized rides for 78 faculty, staff, and students to spend the day in Montgomery meeting Bryan Stevenson and touring the two sites, situating their campus work within the larger history of the Civil Rights Movement.
- Andrew Goodman Ambassadors at Langston University partnered with NAACP to host an event on the effects of redistricting, a common theme of the semester.
- Arizona State University’s Andrew Goodman Campus Team partnered with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office on a town hall to educate students on legislative changes and combat misinformation heading into 2021 local and 2022 Midterm Elections.
The Andrew Goodman Campus Team at Allegheny College contacted all candidates in the local mayoral and city council elections in order to create accessible resources (a website, flyers, and handouts) to help students make educated decisions and encourage them to cast their votes.
- Several Andrew Goodman Campus Teams, such as Georgia State University and SUNY Geneseo, organized candidate debates and forums to get their peers invested in their local elections and encourage them to vote locally.
- The Andrew Goodman Campus Team at Montclair State University partnered with Pizza to the Polls on Election Day. They were able to get 20 pizzas delivered to their campus for students to gather and prepare to head to the polls. The team reported that this was a huge motivating factor in getting folks out to vote.
Youth Voting Rights Advocacy
- The Dutchess County Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bard College’s right to an on-campus polling site, a many years-long battle led by Bard’s Andrew Goodman Campus Team.
- East Carolina University’s Andrew Goodman Campus Team collaborated with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to present on the effects of redistricting, encouraging attendees to engage in the redistricting process through virtual testimonies.
National Voter Registration Day (NVRD)
- 33 Andrew Goodman Campus Teams held events and engagements as official partners of National Voter Registration Day.
- Case Western Reserve University’s Andrew Goodman Campus Team hosted a voter registration drive on NVRD that was covered by local outlet Spectrum News Ohio, and registered 61 new voters.
- Andrew Goodman Ambassadors at Clark Atlanta University tabled on NVRD and registered 93 voters.
- National Voter Education Week (NVEW)
- 24 Andrew Goodman Campus Teams were official partners of National Voter Education Week, sharing information and using the national NVEW hashtags in a concerted information campaign.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Andrew Goodman Ambassadors released an episode of their podcast, Podcast Your Vote, about National Voter Education Week.
- National Vote Early Day (VED)
- 34 Andrew Goodman Campus Teams held events and shared information about early voting as official partners of Vote Early Day.
- Bowling Green State University Andrew Goodman Ambassadors held a Halloween-themed early voting party to help students prepare to vote, find their early voting location, and encourage students to vote early at the polls together.
- Election Day
- Many Vote Everywhere Ambassadors chose to serve as poll workers in their local elections.
In between the many accomplishments and ongoing challenges of our Andrew Goodman Campus Teams this semester, young voting rights activists got a clear view of their progress when the Institute for Democracy in Higher Education released this year’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) report: Democracy Counts 2020. Students voted at a record-breaking 66%, a 14% increase from 2016. Based on this NSLVE data and on 2020-2021 action planning and organizing, many Andrew Goodman Campus Teams received national recognition from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for their contributions to such a landmark year.
The release of this data came at the perfect time: In a year when young people faced a rise of explicit attacks on their voting rights while also trying to lead their generation to the ballot box during an important yet downplayed round of local elections, they were reminded that their power is and always has been immense. Youth organizing works. It worked in 2020 when voter turnout broke records against all odds, and it worked in 2021 as our Ambassadors made huge steps to institutionalize civic engagement on their campuses. It will continue to work until we achieve a truly equitable democracy.
About the Author
Caroline Smith is the Senior Program Manager: Partnership Strategist at The Andrew Goodman Foundation.