Taking Voter Engagement Online: How Georgetown University Institutionalized my.VoteEverywhere
Young voters continue to face several intentional—and amid the coronavirus pandemic, even unintentional—barriers to voting. They rely now more than ever on digital resources in their efforts to reach the polls. During my two years as an Andrew Goodman Ambassador at Georgetown University, I worked tirelessly with the GU Votes team to develop innovative solutions to these barriers in collaboration with The Andrew Goodman Foundation.
Though Georgetown is based in the District of Columbia, the vast majority of its students are registered to vote elsewhere. Accordingly, GU Votes sought to develop strategies that would simultaneously accommodate 50+ unique voting systems across the states and territories while simplifying the absentee voting process for students overall. This problem was not unique to Georgetown, but it demanded a specialized response based on the specific needs of our community.
Our solution, which included multiple programs and initiatives, revolved around AGF’s just-launched my.VoteEverywhere portal. This website was exactly what we were looking for: a one-stop shop for students from any state to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, check their registration status, and more, with every page able to include custom input from GU Votes. We worked closely with AGF staff to customize our my.VoteEverywhere page, where we added specific instructions for mailing absentee ballot request forms using “voter dropboxes” that we placed around campus.
We widely advertised the site ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, even sending an email to every undergraduate student with the link. Our NSLVE data indicated a higher campus voter turnout in 2018 than in the 2012 presidential election and a 143% increase in eligible voter participation compared to the 2014 midterms. We knew that the my.VoteEverywhere portal was key to our success, and we decided to capitalize on that momentum with a push for formal university integration ahead of the 2020 primaries.
A previous iteration of GU Votes approached the administration with a similar proposal years earlier, but the lack of existing voting infrastructure meant that the school would have to dedicate significant resources to developing an online system. Though the school has a longstanding track record of voter advocacy, this proposal from a small student group was never likely to succeed.
Now, armed with a robust online platform from The Andrew Goodman Foundation, hard data to support our efforts from NSLVE, multiple champions of our work within the administration itself (especially our Andrew Goodman Campus Champion), and the impetus to launch the project before 2020, we approached the administration again.
Georgetown’s student portal, MyAccess, already has a series of buttons for, among other tasks, updating one’s address and registering for the campus alert system. GU Votes proposed adding a button labeled “Register to Vote / Request Your Absentee Ballot,” linking to our my.VoteEverywhere page. The administration’s response was swift and overwhelmingly positive, with coordination between our Campus Champion at the Institute of Politics and Public Service, the Office of Federal Relations, and the University Registrar being especially valuable.
In less than two months after submitting our proposal, the button went live, and the entire Georgetown community—nearly 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students around the world—gained access to critical voting resources. This landmark step represents a real commitment to civic engagement on behalf of the university and will help ensure that every Hoya who wants to vote is able to do so. None of this would be possible without the strength of Georgetown’s partnership with The Andrew Goodman Foundation, which has demonstrated its exceptional commitment to student voting through the development of these resources.
Today, Georgetown’s my.VoteEverywhere portal is as robust as ever, with a new generation of GU Votes leaders regularly updating each page with important voter resources. With any student able to register to vote or request a ballot wherever they are, voting at Georgetown has never been easier.
About the Author
Andrew Straky graduated from Georgetown University in December 2019, where he studied Government and served as an Andrew Goodman Ambassador for two years. Intent on continuing his voter advocacy work throughout his career, Andrew worked on a Democratic presidential campaign in 2020 and hopes to attend law school in the near future.