Vote Everywhere and Always

The 2014 midterm elections wrapped up yesterday and the turnout numbers were predictably low. Very low. There are reports of this being the lowest turnout election since the 1940‘s, and back then a good chunk of the country was off fighting a war. Yikes.

The voter turnout amongst young people and Millennials was even lower. Statistics show that only 12% of those who voted were under 30 which was the same percentage it was in 2010.

These are disheartening numbers for sure, but it goes to show the breadth of the work that needs to be done to get younger generations to vote. However, getting out the vote isn’t enough, what we need are informed citizens who are consistently engaged with their civic duties. That doesn’t mean just voting every four years, or every two years, it means understanding the issues, knowing the candidates and it means understanding that civic engagement is a lifelong commitment.

That is the vision behind the Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Vote Everywhere program. We already knew of the issue regarding young people not voting, so we decided to do something about it. We start with voting, but expanded beyond that. Voting is the first step; it is the doorway to civic engagement, not the final destination. Our goal is to have students activate and register their peers in the fall, then engage those they’ve registered to take action on issues they care about.

With the Vote Everywhere program this year we brought on 18 student Ambassadors from 13 colleges and universities around the country, from Tufts University in Massachusetts to University of California, Berkeley. We worked with the Ambassadors, as well as their Campus Champions; carefully selected faculty or staff from university civic engagement centers who work to support our Ambassadors. The Champions help our Ambassadors, who spent the fall registering as many students as possible and making sure that they got to the polls.

By the time voter registration deadlines had passed, our 18 Ambassadors collectively registered over 1,250 students from their campuses and hosted a total of 31 events. Not only that, our Ambassadors engaged 1,900 students through voting workshops, debates, voter registration drives, tabling and dorm outreach.

Nick Doran, our Ambassador at Binghamton University in New York, helped run a “living community competition” among dorm communities on campus to see who could register the most voters, organizing others to go out and make sure their peers were registered. Our Ambassador at UC Berkeley, Sarah Funes organized and facilitated workshops on voter engagement, while our Ambassador at Elon University in North Carolina, Meredith Berk, held multiple tabling events which resulted in her school winning TurboVote’s NC Campus Compact’s registration contest. Meredith and her university helped register the most student voters of any school in their state and of the 465 students that were registered at the school, Meredith worked to register 300 of them. These are just some examples of the incredible work our ambassadors have been doing.

Registering voters and getting them out to actually vote, especially during midterm elections can be an uphill battle. Yet our Ambassadors have demonstrated that students can make a difference in engaging their communities. We hope that their accomplishments thus far have a ripple effect on those around them and we are excited to see young people on our campuses taking action on important causes this spring.

About the Author

Nadia is on the national governing board of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and has a background in women’s rights issues, from reproductive justice to anti-domestic violence work. Prior   to her work at AGF, Nadia worked to politically empower inner city minority youth in California. Nadia has a deep passion for politics, particularly increasing the involvement of women and minorities, and   was involved with various political boards including the California Democratic Party’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, and co-founded a Black Young Democrats Group in Oakland, CA. She also served as an elected delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.