Voter participation in federal elections among eligible students at Georgetown University increased 143% from 2014 to 2018 following student-led efforts to facilitate voter registration.
Voter participation for qualified Georgetown students increased from 20% to 49% during the 2014 and 2018 elections, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, a consortium that allows campuses across the country to collect data on their student registration and voting rates. In the 2018 elections, voter turnout among Georgetown students exceeded the national average campus voting rate by 10%, according to the study.
Founded with the goal of increasing political participation on campus, GU Votes, a student-led branch of the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service, began initiatives in 2015 to make registering to vote more accessible for students.
GU Votes’ work to break down barriers to voting for students brings politics to the forefront of students’ lives, according to GU Politics Chief of Staff Carly Henry (GRD ’19).
“A lot of what we do is expose students to career opportunities in politics and public service and tell them how they can make a difference,” Henry said in an interview with The Hoya. “I think GU Votes is a really good way of showing students how they can make a difference immediately by registering to vote and making their voice heard.”
Students are now able to register to vote in federal, state and local elections, as well as request an absentee ballot and find other election-related materials through a portal on MyAccess, GU Votes announced Nov. 4. Students can also register through GU Votes’ online voter portal: bit.ly/guvotes.
While data regarding student activity on the new MyAccess voter registration portal is not yet available to GU Votes, since August, 427 students have used the voter registration links on the GU Votes website, Henry wrote in an email to The Hoya.
GU Votes programming aims to combat unclear and complicated absentee ballot policies, which present barriers to registering for students who opt to vote in their home state, according to Sarah Bryant (SFS ’22), a student ambassador for GU Votes.
“I think students are very enthusiastic and really want to vote and want to be involved in the political process,” Bryant said. “Often times, I think what we see at GU Votes is that when students don’t vote it’s not because they don’t want to or they don’t care. It’s that it’s often just really hard for students to do that.”
GU Votes holds an annual “Storm the Dorms” voter registration drive on National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 24. On the day in 2019, volunteers from GU Votes tabled in the four first-year dorms and registered hundreds of students.
With the 2020 presidential primaries and election approaching, GU Votes plans to establish relationships with clubs and organizations across campus to ensure they reach as many students as possible, according to Bryant.
“Really our club partnerships is something we’re trying to extend and work more on so that we’re able to reach parts of campus that aren’t just people who are already working with GU Politics,” Bryant said.
One way GU Votes hopes to connect with student organizations is through its voter drop box program, according to Bryant. The program, which is run in partnership with the Office of Residential Living, provides students with secure drop boxes to send off their voter registration materials.
In the coming months, as the primaries begin taking place in states across the country, the Georgetown Office of Federal Relations will email students individualized letters explaining their state-specific deadlines and processes, according to Henry.
Going forward, GU Votes aims to continue encouraging students, especially those who have never voted before, to utilize the resources offered to them, according to Bryant.
“There’s lots of people on campus, especially within GU Politics, who are doing good work and are there to help students who maybe haven’t voted before, don’t know exactly how it works, but really want to,” Bryant said.
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