Campus Compact has developed strategies to help students and others on campus create nonpartisan initiatives to encourage voter registration and participation.
Election Season Activities
In many states the deadline for requesting absentee ballots is several days to several weeks before Election Day. See TuftsVotes for registration deadlines. Campuses that have a large number of out-of-state students should alert them to the deadlines in their states and make sure they understand the procedure for requesting a ballot or changing their registration to their school address.
Students studying abroad can register and vote with an absentee ballot. The Overseas Vote Foundation provides detailed information on how to register as an absentee voter from abroad as well as deadlines for each state. For absentee ballot information within the US, see http://www.longdistancevoter.org/.
Some Helpful Tips for Students
- After determining their respective state’s deadline, students should make sure they leave time for all of the mailing that must take place for their vote to be counted (i.e., they must mail in their request, the state must mail them a ballot, then they have to return the ballot to the state).
- Many states allow family members to request and pick up in person an absentee ballot on the voter’s behalf. If students wait too long to mail in their request, they can have someone else pick up a ballot and express mail it to them at school.
- In most cases, the requisition process will be much easier if students have their voter registration card ready.
- Students can access their state Board of Elections’ website for specific information about requesting an absentee ballot in their state. Find voting policies in your state.
Some Helpful Tips for Campuses
- Include information about absentee voting in the voter registration material you provide to students.
- Begin reminding students about absentee voting at least one month prior to the election.
- Host an “Absentee Voting Party” once students receive their ballots with refreshments; invite a notary public, since some states require absentee ballots to be notarized.
Recruit a cadre of student volunteers to go door-to-door in the dormitories asking students if they have registered to vote. Have registration materials ready so that those who have not already registered can do so on the spot. Leave door hangers when no one answers the door. Keep track of those who are registered so that you can return in the days leading up to the election and remind them to go to the polls. With particularly enthusiastic volunteers, a canvassing operation can also be taken out into the surrounding community. What is the National Form?
Simply reminding people to go to the polls can have a significant impact on voter turnout. A useful strategy is to call students the day before Election Day and remind them to vote. Recruit 20-30 students to volunteer an evening to make phone calls. Let them use the phones in your institution’s administrative offices. Provide refreshments and copies of the campus directory. (One person can usually place 20-25 phone calls in an hour.)
Pledge to Vote
Design a “Pledge to Vote” card that students can sign pledging to turnout at the polls on Election Day. Keep track of those who have pledged so that you have numbers to report to the press and so that you can remind folks to vote in the days leading up to the election. Ask students to include contact information so you can send them a reminder before the election.
Make the election a visible presence on your campus and find ways to integrate it into the campus culture. Campus Compact has designed templates for you to customize and use in your own campaigns.
Some Effective Advertising Techniques
- Place two or three large posters in high-visibility areas of campus encouraging turn out.
- Sponsor public service announcements in the student newspaper and on the student radio station.
- If possible, have the payroll office include with the next round of paychecks a short memo from the president’s office reminding students to vote.
- Post a visible reminder to vote on the school’s home page.
- Print door hangers listing polling places, which Plant Operations or your RA staff can hang on students’ doors.
Work at the Polls
Sponsor a recruitment drive for students to work at the polls. The EAC has published Poll Worker Best Practices including A Guidebook for Recruiting College Poll Workers 16MB (this is a very large document).
There are also grants available to higher education institutions. The EAC has awarded $927,000 in college poll worker grants to help election officials recruit the next generation of poll workers.