National Voter Registration Day Inspires Creative Ways to Register Voters
The Andrew Goodman Foundation values voting as one of the most fundamental and celebrated components of American society. However, this supposed simple act of civic engagement is anything but that to millions of Americans who are not properly registered to vote and therefore unable to participate on Election Day. Reasons ranging from state and federal laws to a simple change in address can be the difference between having a voice and being silenced. Many are unaware of their registration status until it’s too late, a particular problem amongst college students. Fortunately, a recent national civic holiday has been growing in popularity since 2012 and has taken huge strides in making sure Americans are not denied one of their most basic rights.
Every year, the fourth Tuesday of September is National Voter Registration Day (NVRD). This holiday celebrating democracy looks to spread broad awareness of voting and to ensure that hundreds of thousands of people across the country are properly registered to vote, so they can participate in elections. Historically, years of midterm elections feature particularly low voter turnout rates especially amongst the youth. Thanks to volunteers and organizations across the country, 2018 had a record number of people registered on NVRD ahead of the midterm elections, with over 800,000 people registered nationwide.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation has supported and participated in the holiday since its inception, as the organization sees voter participation as the driving force of American civic engagement. As a result, 46 Vote Everywhere campus teams across the country coordinated outreach efforts including educational events, voter registration drives, and securing absentee ballots. At Louisiana State University alone, 500 were registered. In total, the teams and their hard work ensured that 4,019 citizens are now registered to vote.
Along with registering and educating students on voting, campuses on September 25th also provided various forms of entertainment including photobooths and giveaways to encourage more involvement with NVRD. Vote Everywhere teams used unique methods to promote involvement, with the University of North Carolina handing out free donuts and Virginia Commonwealth University providing interactive social media activities, including a Snapchat and Instagram takeover, making voter awareness campus-wide. At Simpson College, numerous students posed for pictures while holding a sign explaining why it is that they vote. The NVRD event at the University of Pennsylvania even featured former Vice President Joe Biden as a speaker.
For NVRD, the campus team at Miami Dade College creatively made a cardboard tree that students could put written paper ornaments explaining why they vote. Miami Dade College’s participation in NVRD is particularly significant, since the college will host two early polling sites, after the recent successful lawsuit that made on-campus early voting possible in a state with a history of suppressing young voters. In regards to the recent progress in Florida, Margaret Sasser, the Vote Everywhere Program Manager who works with the Miami Dade College campuses, said, “With on-campus early voting sites on MDC’s Kendall and North campuses, voting will be much more accessible to MDC students than ever before. It’s important for students to take advantage of this right, and it all starts with being registered to vote.”
One major obstacle in promoting youth involvement in democracy is shaking off the myth held by many young adults that their vote doesn’t matter and elections have no impact on their lives. Ironically, it is the youth that have their future particularly shaped based on who is elected into office. Being among the most underrepresented voter group in the country, college students have a traditionally low voter turnout, due in part to voter suppression laws aimed at young people and those living on college and university campuses. National Voter Registration Day is one way in which voter turnout can be and has been stimulated as the popularity of the holiday has grown. Vote Everywhere campus teams have put emphasis on topics that interest youth and social media involvement to make voting more exciting and to remind them of the power of their voice on Election Day, particularly in 2018.
About the Author
Steve Henry is the Communications and Development Intern with the Andrew Goodman Foundation. Studying social history in America and its ever changing landscape has prompted his desire to focus attention towards civic engagement and issues of social justice. He will be receiving a Bachelor’s degree in History with minors in American Studies and Psychology from Ramapo College of New Jersey.