By Sabrina Medler
As a young voter, and recent Political Science graduate from Stanford University, I understand the kinds of obstacles that impact students’ ability to vote. My goal is to help boost the youth vote in this monumental election, particularly as an Organizing Intern for the Faculty Network for Student Voting Rights. Though I’ve worked on peer-to-peer on-campus voting initiatives for the 2018 midterm election and 2020 primaries, I’ve found that some of the most effective mobilization can actually come at an institutional and faculty level.
During my first semester of college I was astounded to learn how many of my eligible peers — who had plenty of opinions on the candidates and proposals — didn’t vote. In their defense, voting in your first election in your second month of college can be stressful and difficult. I, myself, had to navigate registering to vote in my home state, Missouri, figuring out my state’s particular deadlines and requirements. Every step, from acquiring postage to finding a notary to researching the ballot proposals, made voting that much more difficult. It’s no surprise that our campus student turnout for the 2016 election was 48% — below the national average for universities and far below the national average for all age groups. In contrast, the heavily organized Stanford Votes initiative in 2018 helped boost precinct voter turnout by as much as 70%. What I learned in this work was that campus-wide initiatives can actually make a huge difference. Students want to vote; they often just don’t have the tools and expertise to follow through. I believe faculty can play a vital role in this process.The Faculty Network for Student Voting Rights hopes to address the ways in which faculty at universities and colleges in the US can promote voter engagement….Faculty can opt-in to join one of our sub-committees to help carry out this important work.
Election systems and the preparation many young people receive (or fail to receive) to become informed voters are inadequate, leading to significant variations in voting rates by race/ethnicity, educational attainment, and other socioeconomic and demographic factors. There are a handful of organizations targeting young people and students with the goal of increasing youth voter turnout this November, but our organization is focused on a tangential audience: faculty. The Faculty Network for Student Voting Rights hopes to address the ways in which faculty at universities and colleges in the US can promote voter engagement. This network includes faculty of all disciplines — political science and otherwise. We’re asking faculty, from tenured professors to teaching assistants and adjuncts, to join the network and sign the pledge to commit to as many of the following as possible:
- Provide information about options for voter registration (by mail if campus moves online) and polling places and times in class;
- Cooperate with other groups on campus seeking to register, educate, and turn-out students to vote;
- Make the classroom available for voter registration by a trained nonpartisan volunteer, as appropriate, and encourage other faculty to do so;
- Enlist administration and faculty to support efforts to register and turn-out students to vote, including seeking on-campus polling sites and early voting locations, and facilitating vote-by-mail as appropriate;
- Recruit other faculty and support what they are doing, even if retired.
By joining the network, faculty members will receive periodic updates with resources catered to the needs of faculty — ways to incorporate voting into the classroom, how to mobilize students in the event that faculty teach virtually, resources compiling state-by-state deadlines and requirements, and more. Faculty can also opt-in to join one of our sub-committees to help carry out this important work. We hope to build out regional networks for faculty at nearby schools to connect with one another, as well as provide programming like monthly webinars on topics pertaining to faculty.
If you have any ideas for the Faculty Network (from potential connections or partners to the kinds of resources that may be valuable to you) feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sabrina Medler is a guest contributor for the RAISE the Vote Campaign. The views expressed in the posts and articles featured in the RAISE the Vote campaign are those of the authors and contributors alone and do not represent the views of APSA.
Sabrina Medler is a recent Political Science graduate from Stanford University and organizing intern for The Faculty Network for Student Voting Rights. Medler has worked on congressional campaigns in New York and California and in journalism at various publications in Missouri, California, New York, D.C., and internationally. She’s recently moved into non-profit communications and plans to pursue law.