Students can now register to vote in federal, state and local elections, request an absentee ballot and find other election-related material through a voter portal on MyAccess, according to a Nov. 4 announcement by GU Votes.
GU Votes, a student-run group that works to promote voting at the university, collaborated with the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service, the Office of Federal Relations and the university registrar to implement the online portal ahead of the 2020 presidential election and local fall 2019 elections. Though the service was announced Nov. 4, the portal officially went live Oct. 29.
The integration of the portal into MyAccess provides a convenient way for students to engage in their civic duty, according to Andrew Straky (COL ’20), co-president of GU Votes.
“Now, registering to vote or requesting an absentee ballot can be just as easy as updating your telephone number or registering for classes,” Straky said in an interview with The Hoya.
Since January 2018, GU Votes has worked closely with the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a national group that aims to increase student voting across the country, to make the initiative possible at Georgetown, according to GU Votes.
The foundation was responsible for developing the new online platform, which includes multiple resources to increase students’ participation in the electoral process, according to Karena Cronin, program director at the Andrew Goodman Foundation.
The portal gives students access to information on election deadlines, candidate platforms and how to navigate the absentee voting process, according to Cronin.
“We are thrilled to see Georgetown University embrace this resource as a way to increase access to voting for their students,” Cronin said in a GU Votes news release.
Among eligible Georgetown students, overall voter participation in midterm elections increased from 20.1% in 2014 to 49.0% in 2018, according to GU Votes. The overall national average voting rate among college students increased from 19.7% in 2014 to 39.1% in 2018, according to a 2018 report by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University.
Launching the online platform to increase civic engagement among college students is an important step to ensuring greater participation in the democratic process, according to Mo Elleithee (SFS ’94), executive director of GU Politics.
“Part of the GU Politics mission is to encourage every student to participate in building the democracy they want to see,” Elleithee said in the news release. “We are really proud of our students for working with a wide range of stakeholders at Georgetown to help their classmates have a voice in the decisions of their nation and support our fragile democracy.”
The timing of the MyAccess initiative is valuable because students at Georgetown planning to vote in the 2020 election primaries come from a wider diversity of states than students at other schools do, Straky said.
“The unique thing about Georgetown versus, say, the University of Michigan — where they’re worried about a one-state voting system, we worry about 50,” Straky said. “We have students from all across the country, and most often students choose to vote from their home state if they’re eligible to do so, so we have to facilitate that.”
GU Votes is also working to make the absentee ballot request process easier for students, according to the announcement. The organization already runs a Voter Dropbox Program, which provides prestamped envelopes and secure dropboxes with nightly mail service.
GU Votes focused on creating a streamlined process for students to have access to various voting resources in creating the portal, according to Straky.
“Students are worried about finding their classes; they just got to college — they don’t want to be thinking about that,” Straky said. “By integrating it directly into MyAccess, it makes it that much easier for students to have access to these voting tools.”
Hayley Grande (COL ’21), president of Georgetown University College Republicans, expressed support for the ease of use the voter portal provides to students.
“The new voter portal in MyAccess is a fantastic way to help increase accessibility to voting materials while away at school to make sure that students have a voice in the upcoming 2020 election,” Grande wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Rebecca Hollister (COL ’21), chair of Georgetown University College Democrats, hopes the new system can be incorporated into future GUCD meetings and increase participation among members.
“I’m going to encourage the next GUCD board to do a tutorial and exploration of the new system, and as always, we want to make sure all of our members are registered to vote,” Hollister wrote in an email to The Hoya. “GU Votes has made it easier for students to do so, and we are very excited and grateful at the success of their project.”