Moving Forward: A Vote Everywhere that is Broader, Deeper, and Better
One of The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s biggest priorities is continuing the legacy of Andrew Goodman, a young college student who witnessed an injustice and took action. Andy believed that “One Person=One Vote,” and that every citizen should have an equal say in our democracy. Unfortunately, despite numerous victories for voting rights over the years, there are many groups today whose needs continue to be ignored because their voices are missing from the ballot box. However, with the arrival of the long-anticipated midterm elections, 2018 has the potential to finally level the playing field for political equity in the United States.
With a recent uptick in civic action following the 2017 Women’s March, the U.S. Senate Special Election in Alabama, and more recently the Parkland, FL mass shooting, some groups predict that 2018 will see a higher turnout among traditionally marginalized groups like students and people of color. Although it is not a presidential election year, a lot is at stake with all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and roughly 1/3 of U.S. Senators up for re-election. There are also many local races for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, local legislatures, and judges.
In order to advocate for more young voices in the midterm elections, AGF is focusing on meaningful ways to expand our Vote Everywhere program, deepen our impact, and improve our existing infrastructure.
The current VE footprint includes 54 colleges and universities located in 23 states and Washington, D.C. Karena Cronin, VE Program Director, is working with her team to grow the VE network to 65 schools by the end of 2018. “We are following a carefully thought out expansion strategy,” says Cronin, who joined AGF in December 2017. “By focusing on colleges in competitive counties and states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona, with known voting impediments and a diverse student body, we are bringing our program to campuses with the biggest needs.” The estimated 20% increase in the number of participating college campuses will strengthen the program’s national presence and bring its potential sphere of influence to approximately 1,000,000 students.
In addition to geographical expansion, VE also hopes to widen its promise to make all young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy. Cronin believes that starts with recognizing the inequalities in voter engagement. “In order to create a flourishing democracy, we need all citizens to be informed, engaged, and empowered. That is why we will continue to pay special attention to Minority Serving Institutions and schools with high levels of Pell Grant recipients in our expansion strategy. Furthermore, we will continue to encourage our campus teams to undertake projects and build partnerships that advance equal voting rights and equitable treatment.”
Lastly, the VE team hopes to close the information gap for young voters by launching an online voter information portal. Many students today are unsure about how, where, or when to vote, and all of that information is spread across multiple platforms. To address this issue, the online portal that will pull together registration information, voting requirements, and polling locations for each of its participating campuses in one convenient location. “Voting is already a confusing process, with requirements varying from state to state, and often campus to campus,” says Karena. “We wanted to take the guesswork out of it and hopefully came up with an easy way for our students to be able to access this information on-the-go with a touch of the button.” The team hopes to pilot the online portal in time for the midterm elections and work closely with campus teams to energize students.
In order to move the needle on student civic action and create meaningful change in America, programs like Vote Everywhere need to achieve a nationally-significant presence. The AGF hopes to do just that by onboarding new campus partners, advancing political equity for all young citizens with key partners and providing them with the tools they need to inspire greater voter engagement in November and every election after that.
About the Author
Justyna Krygowska is the Communications Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation. In her role, she manages a variety of projects to ensure the foundation’s brand and programs are reinforced with quality communications. Justyna holds a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Design with a concentration in Communication Design and Design & Management from Parsons the New School for Design.