10 Easy Steps To Help Students Vote

  1. Create a nonpartisan coalition, incorporating students, faculty and staff, to register, educate, and turn out students to vote. Remember: Since the Help American Vote Act was passed, all colleges and universities receiving any federal funding are required to make a good faith effort to register students, so you are helping out your school by doing this.  Meet with senior administrators, even your president, to explain your plans and ask for their support.
  2. Investigate: When is the registration deadline in your state (typically 30 days before Election Day)? How do you properly fill out your state’s voter registration form, including any rules on assisting registrants? Where are the current polling places for students resident at, or living nearby, your campus? Do you have one on- or near campus, and if not, can you ask for one to be opened?
  3. Make your own customized voter registration form, using an original from your state but adding in all possible information (e.g. if students live on campus, you can fill that information in).  Make sure you receive prior approval from your County Board of Elections to do this, and copy the “customized” form onto a sheet with instructions, so as to speed up the process.
  4. *Organize a crew for “Move-In Day,” when first-years show up with their parents and furniture to collect room keys, sign up for bank accounts, get identification cards, etc. If your school is hosting a virtual orientation, be sure to include information about registering to vote.
  5. *Table at your Activities Fair: early in the fall term there is usually a day when all student organizations set up tables and seek members. Get a table, and place your clipboarders in front, asking people to register to vote. If your school is offering a Virtual Activities Fair, lead a group on voter registration.
  6. Later in September, organize an in-class registration week. After clearing it with the appropriate dean, a respected professor should email the entire faculty, asking if they can spare ten minutes at the beginning of class for a volunteer to hand out registration forms and help students fill them out. If teaching virtually, faculty can use online tools like QR codes or text bots to send registration links to their students. Include a slide at the end of your lesson about voter registration. Set up a Google Doc so professors can enter their information about day/time/location and volunteers can sign up directly.
  7. Use your state’s registration deadline for a final push. Ask your president or a dean to send a message to all students that this is their last chance to register. Remind your colleagues to inform their students about registration. Incorporate a Canvas Module about creating a voting plan into your course.
  8. The month before the election is ideal for voter education: forums with professors to explain the issues, debates between Campus Republicans and College Democrats, guest speakers, a film series, etc.
  9. *In the week before the election, organize a systematic Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) operation in the dorms and/or your campus neighborhood: putting a flyer with the location of the polling place(s), hours, and what kind of identification is required under every student’s door. If teaching virtually, inform students about online engagement in the election, including programs like Campus Couch Parties.
  10. *On Election Day, open an Election Headquarters early in the morning in your Student Center, with banners, coffee and free food, and keep it open until the polls close. This is to remind students where to vote, and encourage them to do so: many students will still be uncertain as to whether or not they are registered, and where, or even how late they can vote. Make sure you get the current list of registered voters from your County Board of Elections. If you’re teaching online, make class optional or pre-record it so that students who choose to vote in person have the time to go to the polls. If you anticipate hostile individuals or groups “challenging” the right of your students to vote, get sympathetic faculty and staff to act as poll greeters, ready to report any problems. If you anticipate challenges, get your college’s legal counsel alerted in advance, ready to apply to a judge for redress: it has been established in court cases around the country, and even a Supreme Court decision, that students have right to vote where they go to school, but there is considerable resistance to “non-residents” exercising their rights.

* = Denotes a tip that may be more useful in an in-person setting. Virtual options are encouraged if teaching remotely.