Youth virtually engage their peers on National Voter Registration Day

MASSPIRG Students launch their effort to help students across MA register and vote safely in a COVID-19 election in coordination with campus administrators, faculty, civic engagement staff, and a coalition of nonprofits.

Press Release

For Immediate Release

For More Information:
Brendan Geraghty, MASSPIRG Students Statewide Board Chair, 508-577-1833, [email protected]
Samantha Gibb, MASSPIRG Students Statewide Organizing Director, 608-385-1285, [email protected] 
Manny Rin, Student PIRGs New Voters Project Director, 925-234-1457, [email protected]

BOSTON MA – Although COVID-19 has reshaped the election landscape in 2020, as in the past, motivated young Americans are leading the efforts to mobilize their communities this fall, even with minimal face-to-face interaction on campus. On National Voter Registration Day (Tuesday, Sept. 22), college student leaders with MASSPIRGs’ New Voters Project launched their fall campaign efforts to reach thousands of students over social media by organizing diverse coalitions of student groups on campus and holding virtual events to register and contact youth voters. 

While traditional on-campus outreach has halted across most of the country, students are still focused on using personalized tactics to mobilize young people — the largest potential voting bloc in the United States. 

As of midday Tuesday, volunteers with MASSPIRG working with their campus coalition partners had already reached over 60,000 students across the state from all-campus emails sent by Student Affairs offices, text messages to friends, social media posts, and virtual class announcements. 

“Voting is the most powerful way we can make our voices heard. The coronavirus pandemic has complicated the process, so we are building large, diverse coalitions on our college campuses to push for safe voting policies,” said Brendan Geraghty, Statewide Board Chair for MASSPIRG Students, and Senior UMass Amherst student,

“National Voter Registration Day is just the first step in our effort to turn out students this November.”

The goal of this year’s National Voter Registration Day is to increase participation in democracy by registering, educating, and activating students in the campus community. 

MASSPIRG launched the day with a webinar and a civic engagement panel with a variety of speakers including student leaders, campus staff and administrators, and public officials. 

“Your voices are needed now,” said former Mayor of Fitchburg, Lisa Wong, who was elected as Mayor when she was just 28 years old, but got her campaign experience early when she too was a college student at Boston University. “It’s important to have a pipeline of talented and dedicated people in every aspect of democracy, as staffers and consultants, non-profit leaders as well as those running for office.”

In the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, college students turned out to vote at double the rate from the last midterm, according to a report from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE), housed at Tufts University. 

Nancy Thomas, the Director of the IDHE addressed student volunteers who joined today’s event saying “to all first-time and youth voters: You are an influential group, larger now than the boomers, who have been driving public policy for decades. Use your power. Vote!”

Over 200 student volunteers signed up to join virtual National Voter Registration Day events happening on campuses across the state this week. Events planned by student coordinators are focused on “relational organizing”, which involves asking students to text friends and post on their own social media sites with a link to studentvote.org to update their registration and pledge to vote safely. 

“No matter how far away our vision of the United States seems, it isn’t getting any closer if we don’t take any small steps forward. And that starts with voting,” said a student leader from UMass Lowell, Annie Soup-Koagne, who is the Event Coordinator for the Association of Students of African Origin, and member of the Black Advisory Council on her campus. “We are what happens next. We can’t change what happened before us, but we can change what is to come.”

MASSPIRG’s efforts focus on peer-to-peer interactions to mobilize students to turn out to vote, but in this virtual world, campus staff and administrators are critical to achieving a high voter turnout. Part of the strategy to increase voter turnout involves engaging sports teams, greek life, and student groups in friendly competitions to help infuse civic engagement into their regular campus life activities. 

At UMass Lowell, Assistant Athletic Director for Administration Ruben Sançahas issued a competition between all of the collegiate sports teams to see who can mobilize the most eligible voters. 

“Our student athletes are competitive by nature,” Said Sança, “we like to use that nature to help us be active in our communities, be visible on campus, and really promote civic engagement of all kinds.”

Although virtual learning has brought a number of challenges to building community on campus, there are plenty of faculty and staff on college campuses who are ready to spread the word and give student volunteers the platform they need to reach their peers.

“We know students listen to other students and that peer to peer contact can’t be underestimated, but as faculty, staff and administrators we must utilize elections as an opportunity to fulfill our civic engagement mission for the university.” said Heidi Getchell-Bastien, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Government at MassBay Community College.

“Allowing time in classes for students to speak, sending out notifications, promoting the work of our students who are actively engaged in voter mobilization is critical to youth voter turnout.”

Throughout the week, and until the voter registration deadline on Saturday Oct 24th, hundreds of student volunteers will help thousands of their peers update their registration status, and create a culture of voting in their campus communities with the goal of doubling turnout in 2020 from turnout in 2016.

“Right now, young people are fired up — going to protests and signing petitions. We need to make sure we make our voices heard on Election Day as well,” said Geraghty,  “In an online world, young people are uniquely set up to organize others. It’s time we show the country that America’s largest generation votes!”

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Follow National Voter Registration Day activities through social media on September 22 by searching #PIRG, #NVRD,  #NationalVoterRegistrationDay, #CampusTakeover and by following MASSPIRG Students on Twitter & Instagram

The Student PIRGs  voter registration and turnout effort is part of its New Voters Project campaign, one of the largest nonpartisan youth voter mobilization efforts in the country. The Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project has run peer-to-peer student voter mobilization drives to turn out the youth vote on college campuses for more than 30 years. Its philosophy is that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. The New Voters Project does not endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, a political candidate or political party for elected office.

 

Founded in 2012, National Voter Registration Day is designed to create an annual moment when the entire nation focuses on registering Americans to exercise their most basic right—the right to vote. Nearly 3 million Americans have registered to vote on the holiday since the inaugural National Voter Registration Day in 2012.