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Posts from the ‘Voting’ Category
By Joanna Woodson, Student, and Lane Perry, Director, Center for Service Learning, Western Carolina University (N.C.)
In early 2016, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and Campus Vote Project brought their organizations to Western Carolina University (WCU) in hopes of attracting civically-inclined students as fellows. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, these two organizations were catalysts which set off a university-wide push to organize, mobilize, and Get Out The Vote. Though many folks have seen the tip of the iceberg, they do not realize this movement took months of researching, planning, observing, and lobbying—and those actions still only scratch the surface.
An example demonstrating the tenacity, expertise, and intentionality of the Student Democracy Coalition (SDC) is captured by the specialized approach to establishing an on-campus early voting polling location on campus. Initially, the Jackson County Board of Elections was approached to determine the process for establishing an early voting polling place—it was immediately clear that there was no step-by-step process. In this moment there were two options—establish the process or move on. History will show that the SDC chose the far more complex pathway of establishing the process.
To establish the process which would lead to the university’s first polling location, the SDC leadership informally approached the Jackson County Board of Elections and the upper-administration of WCU to gauge the desires of each. They then developed a petition and obtained over 1,000 student and community signatures in support of the on-campus polling place. With the signed petition in hand, formal requests were made to WCU upper-administration, local state representatives and senators from differing political affiliations, and other key constituent groups to support the request.
Simultaneously, the SDC leadership had been attending Board of Elections meetings to learn and demonstrate symbolically the commitment to this request. This public request was intentionally structured to speak about the value of an on-campus polling place for students, to showcase three different party student representatives (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents), and to illustrate the desire of the university as a whole. While this is simply a thumbnail sketch of a yearlong effort, it demonstrates the SDC’s commitment to understand and interpreting policy, building and funneling capacity, and putting civic heads and hearts into action!
This was an exciting time leading up to the election, but soon after November 8th the team had to ask one another, “What about after the election?”. What happens when newly-elected officials and their policies continue developing into 2017? The architecture for on-campus civic engagement, which had been so carefully crafted, is still standing but the students seem to be burned out on politics. The whole team is quick to admit that it, too, has been exhausted.
However, the SDC team persisted and found innovative ways to engage students in a new political climate. It was clear that some aspects of the previous semester’s model would no longer be relevant, and the SDC broke down the old method of Register, Educate, Activate (i.e. ballot casting), in order to reevaluate what students would show up for in the spring. Students decided that in the wake of this divisive election, strategic advocacy would replace activation, education would become more expansive, and registration would operate as a supporting actor between the other two components.
The advocacy and educational work was thrilling this spring. North Carolina is a compelling place to live and study, full of interesting policies, and though sometimes frustrating, it does provide for the perfect learning laboratory for 21st century democracy . Students of diverse political backgrounds came together to attend, observe, and learn from smaller political organizing opportunities across North Carolina, as well as the National Women’s March on Washington during the semester. At these events students were able to network with representatives and even help lead change on issues like juvenile prison reform in North Carolina.
These moments of simple clarity we have valued this semester, because it most certainly has not been an easy task carrying on with the same spirit after the election. The negativity felt by students in the days afterward doused the momentum and spirit the organization felt in the months leading up to November. It seemed that regardless of for whom one voted, no one was satisfied once the ballots were counted. It’s a difficult thing to admit that our team had to slow down after experiencing such a powerful start in 2016. But, as life is unpredictable, there were important lessons to be gleaned from it. Whether or not individuals want to carry on, democracy requires strength and motion.
Simply stated, by engaging in democracy you shape democracy. This profound concept is equal to the time, energy, and heart individuals put into it. This forward movement is the blueprint for the future, particularly as the future of the SDC is developed to take over next semester. After May of this year, the last of the original members of the coalition will go on to their next phases of life. It is challenging to let go in order for the next generation of leaders to take over something which has been cherished for so long. But that is life at its core, and onward we must march toward a better tomorrow.
Already registered for the 2017 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to add this free lunch session! Not registered yet? Be sure to select the option when you register!
Thursday, June 8th
11:45 a.m. – 1:45 p.m.
2017 Voter Engagement Symposium: Engaging Locally & Strategizing Digitally
Lunch provided; RSVP now via registration as event is capped at 70 participants
Please join TurboVote, our partner colleges and universities, and other nonprofit organizations for an interactive symposium on what it takes to engage student voters in not one, but all of their elections. Together, we will learn about specific nonpartisan tactics for institutionalizing voter registration on campus and making voting a default student experience. While a presidential election year provides additional resources for and an increased focus on voting, we’ll discuss action items that can be implemented in a non-presidential year to create a more democratically engaged campus and community. All interested parties are welcome to attend. Lunch will be provided, as saving democracy tends to work up quite the appetite!
Lunch will be provided, as saving democracy tends to work up quite the appetite! RSVP today as event is capped at 70 participants. Space is filling fast!
By Ellie Brookbank, Junior Political Science Major, Salisbury University (Md.)
My name is Ellie Brookbank and I am currently the Political Director for the Maryland College Democrats and the President of the Salisbury University College Democrats. At the start of the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session, I also became an intern for Maryland State Senator Bobby Zirkin (D-11) who has served the Maryland assembly since 1998. Senator Zirkin, who is the Chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee, recently proposed a bill (Senate Bill 141) that would require a polling place be established on all higher education campuses that house students.
As the student leader of a political organization, I am thrilled about the effect that this piece of legislation could have on increasing student voter turnout and overall civic engagement. During the past election cycle, both the Maryland State College Democrats and the Salisbury College Democrats were working to make sure that students were informed about when and how they could vote. On Salisbury’s campus specifically, both members of the College Democrats and College Republicans participated in voter registration tables in conjunction with PACE (Salisbury’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement). From participating in many of these voter registration tables, handing out voter information at various school events, and discussing voting procedures during club meetings, I was able to get a sense of the obstacles students face when voting.
During the first hearing of Senate Bill 141 (track the bill here) in the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, I testified on behalf of this significant bill and also helped to organize students from all over Maryland to share both their oral and written support for this bill. During my testimony, I highlighted that absentee ballots are often the only option for students who are not able to go back home to vote, do not have the transportation to get off campus to a polling location, or are not comfortable going off campus in general. Although absentee ballots may be the only way of voting for students, many are not aware of what they are, or how to request them. Having a polling place directly on college campuses would make voting significantly more accessible for students who are living, working, and volunteering in the communities where they attend school.
Although this bill is still in committee, I am optimistic that the members of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee will realize the critical role this legislation could play in increasing student voter turnout. Even if Senate Bill 141 does not become law this legislative session, I hope that it will spark a discussion between Maryland students and schools about the accessibility of voting on their individual campuses.
ALL IN Challenge Webinar Series:
MAKING SENSE OF THE CAMPUS DEMOCRATIC ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVES
Tuesday, February 28 | 2 PM EST | 60 minutes
You may have asked yourself if your campus is eligible to join the American Democracy Project or The Democracy Commitment. Or perhaps you’ve wondered whether you can apply for the Voter Friendly Campus Designation or join the ALL IN Challenge. These are good questions.
The higher education democratic engagement ecosystem is filled with exceptional programs. But so many programs can be overwhelming for campuses to navigate and fully understand. If you’ve been scratching your head, we hope you’ll join us for a presentation designed to end the confusion.
Participants will hear from representatives from AASCU, Campus Compact, Civic Nation, Fair Elections Legal Network, NASPA, The Democracy Commitment and Young Invincibles about their programs to increase student voting and advance civic learning on college campuses. Panelists will discuss the goals of each program, and how they differ from and build upon each other’s work. Campuses will get a clear understanding of which programs are the right fit for their campus and how to get involved with each.
Clarissa Unger, Young Invincibles & the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition
Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, AASCU’s American Democracy Project
Catherine Fish, Civic Nation’s ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge
Maggie Grove, Campus Compact
Debi Lombardi, Fair Election Legal Network’s Campus Vote Project
Stephanie Reynolds, NASPA’s Lead Initiative
Verdis LeVar Robinson, The Democracy Commitment
For questions or additional information please contact email@example.com