KSU’s Voter Engagement Coalition
The Center for Student Leadership (CSL) supports voter registration and education initiatives at Kennesaw State University (KSU) along with other partners: campus student organizations, academic units, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration, and the Cobb County League of Women Voters.
Each year the Coalition at Kennesaw State University, comprised of multiple partners from across the institution, hosts Constitution Week. This week includes National Voter Registration Day, Constitution Day, and Citizenship Day. Throughout Constitution Week the CSL hosts voter registration and education tables along with “Roaming Registrars.” We recruit many volunteers; the volunteers are staff and faculty who volunteer to table and serve as registrars. The volunteers who run the tables and assist as registrars use iPads with the KSU TurboVote site preloaded. The iPads also include a tab with the My GA Voter page, so students can confirm their registration and check their polling location. Lastly, the tables have hard copy forms along with other educational pamphlets provided by the Georgia Secretary of State.
The KSU Coalition maintains a nonpartisan approach to our initiatives. To that end, the programming conducted by the various stakeholders focuses on specific topics rather than representing political parties. We also offer the call for programs to all constituents across the institution and ensure that various forms of representation are present during programming. To resolve any scheduling conflicts, the Coalition shares and discusses the Constitution Week schedule with one another before publishing. While our Coalition remains focused on nonpartisan approaches, we also serve as a resource to partisan student groups that might want to host their own activities, as long as all involved directly in voter registration comply with nonpartisan standards.
Creating the Action Plan
Traditionally, the Dean of Students has submitted the action plan. To ensure inclusion of all details, a call to action is sent to all members of the Coalition. The resulting report is then shared with the group for feedback very similar to our other processes. Because the Coalition wasn’t able to meet regularly in crafting the action plan, we shared documents digitally, so that everyone was able to contribute and edit. The Coalition then met in person a few times closer to the dates of major programming to review logistical details. Because the Coalition is large, there are additional subgroups that formed to focus on specific elements of the work, meeting more frequently as their work demanded.
We recommend drafting an action plan to other campuses as it ensures your institution is providing access for students to be democratically engaged. The process of developing an action plan also provides a way to gain an understanding of your campus climate in regards to voter engagement. We’ve learned a great deal in the process about our student population, and their needs in regards to voter registration. With our planning and organization we’re able to continue improving annually based on our prior efforts.
Voter Engagement Challenges
The Coalition has faced several challenges with implementing successful voter engagement on Kennesaw’s campus. Internally, we’ve experienced organizations and individuals attempting to register students to vote that aren’t appropriately coordinating with KSU. This includes individuals that appeared to be utilizing pretenses or sloppy procedures, resulting in students who thought they were registered but learned on Election Day they weren’t. To combat this, we created a policy to require any organization conducting voter registration activities to be registered through the Office of the Dean of Students.
Externally, we’re facing the pressure of having students register locally even though they may be attending the institution from a different hometown. We offer education to students to help them understand local policies that may impact them while also providing this same information to external constituents. Certain external constituents discourage students from registering with a local/on-campus address or even suggest they’re not allowed to do so. We’ve also had challenges on Election Day with poll workers not realizing that a student ID is a valid form of ID and attempt to turn those voters away.
Strategies for 2018
This election cycle we hope to use these resources to promote TurboVote: the Dean of Students’ website, Snapchat, campus-wide messaging, social media, and direct email communication from the Dean of Students and the Student Government Association President. If granted CEEP Fellows (see goals), we hope to utilize them as a street team to have more direct communication with students.
Additionally, employing multiple touchpoints proved helpful for us when implementing TurboVote. The iPads utilized during tabling came from our Career Development Department, and volunteers were from various departments. The diversity of volunteers ensured multiple individuals across the institution were aware of the resource, where to find it, and its specific usage. In a variety of places on the KSU website, there is a link to TurboVote which helps students access TurboVote easily.
Short-term, we hope to employ Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) Fellows—student interns that help facilitate campus voter initiatives and programing. We hope this will alleviate a majority of the work currently being supported by staff members while also providing additional programming, such as campus screenings and directive dialogue. Long-term we hope to see a polling location added to KSU’s campus to continually encourage voting and encourage students to serve as poll workers . Even though many students coming to KSU are already registered to vote, we hope to create a more democratically-engaged culture that invites more students to participate in civic dialogue and activities.
Immediate and ongoing SMART goals include:
- increasing voter registration rates by five percent from the 2012 NSLVE data by 2020
- increasing the voting rate by ten percent from the 2012 NSLVE data by 2020
- increasing TurboVote participation rate by fifteen percent from the July 2016 rate by December 2018
Lastly, as a part of our voter education campaign, we will track student participation in the new, all-digital access New York Times readership program initiated in September 2017 and hopefully demonstrate that at least ten percent of all KSU students have created an account and utilized the readership program by May 2018. These are ambitious goals, and even if not achieved, we will continue striving to demonstrate even incremental increases every election cycle.