Voter Engagement Toolkit

On-the-ground Bottlenecks

Face-to-face conversations are incredibly powerful. They give you a chance to talk directly with students interested in signing up for TurboVote, and who may have some questions about the service, or about voting in general. Leveraging on-the-ground bottlenecks provide the perfect opportunity for you to learn more about what students need to become active voters, and for you to help them take that leap.


New Student Orientation 

Embedding TurboVote into existing student processes and activities — like new student orientation — can reach students already in the mindset to sign up for services, and can help set the expectation that voting is part of the college experience. Plus, new students are more likely to have recently moved for school, meaning: 

  • if many of your students are from out of state, this can be a great opportunity for them to register in their new state, or to sign up for TurboVote’s vote by mail request form service.
  • if your students have moved within their state, they should still re-register at their new address.
  • even if students haven’t moved recently, they can always take advantage of TurboVote’s election reminders!

There are a lot of different ways you can give students an opportunity to sign up for TurboVote during new student orientation: 

  • If you have an online component to orientation, like when students work with advisers to register for classes, you can simply include a link to your TurboVote site as part of that process. 
  • If your school provides a checklist of things each new student needs to do before they start classes, consider adding signing up with TurboVote as an optional item.
  • Weave TurboVote into the student ID process. Have a laptop(s) or tablet(s) sitting nearby so students get their ID, sign up for TurboVote, and then head onto the next thing! 
  • Some TurboVote partners have had a lot of success including a presentation or video during a new student assembly. Students can then hop on smartphones and sign up for TurboVote before leaving the auditorium. 

Speaking of new students, consider working with residential life to make TurboVote a part of move-in day: new address, new voter registration! You can ask RAs to talk to their new residents about TurboVote during their first floor meeting, or have fliers printed to slide under everyone’s doors.


Tabling 

Sometimes, catching students during a moment of downtime can be a great way to initiate a conversation about voting. Tabling is a tried-and-true approach to voter registration. Situating tables in high-traffic areas, like a student union, dining hall, or near the bookstore at the beginning of the term, can be a great opportunity to get students signed up for TurboVote.


Pro Tip: 

Split up your table staff — keep one volunteer behind the table to manage materials and keep signups going, and one in the crowd to greet students and encourage signups face-to-face.


A diverse tabling team is also very helpful. It can be great to have students staffing the table because it creates an opportunity for peer-to-peer conversation about how important voting is. It can also be great to invite representatives from other groups, such as the League of Women Voters, and your local election clerk, to table with you and your student volunteers. They have a wealth of knowledge and an great interest in helping everyone register and vote successfully.

When tabling, remember that TurboVote does much more that just facilitate voter registration. The text and email election reminders and the vote-by-mail request forms are both very valuable services that go beyond registration. If your student body is already fairly civic-minded, you may find that a lot of them have already registered to vote. Make sure they know that TurboVote can still be a great value to them!

Even if your tabling efforts do not garner a lot of TurboVote sign-ups, they can still be very helpful to your overall program. Hanging TurboVote banners on your table, keeping laptops with the TurboVote page facing out, or handing out TurboVote flyers or stickers, are all great ways to let your students know that TurboVote is a service that is available to them. The more a student has heard of TurboVote, the more likely they are to sign up when they have an opportunity to later.

Helpful Tips:

  • Be an active tabler. Get out in front of the table, and actively try to engage with the students passing by. Make eye contact. Ask them to sign up!
  • Pick a location that is at a high foot-traffic area, such as on the college quad, dining hall, outside of a school event like a game.
  • Make sure you have a reliable internet connection. TurboVote works well on laptops, tablets, and smartphones using both wifi or cell data service, but it can cause problems if the internet connection goes in and out. If the wifi connection you are using goes in and out, you may need to get a signal booster or find a different spot to set up.
  • Free food. Offer some free food - popcorn, cookies, pizza, donuts, vegan granola bars - at the table to entice students to come over and spend a moment. Make sure they know they may have the treat whether they sign up or not.
  • Don’t overwhelm people by having too many volunteers staffing your table! Make sure your volunteers are engaged and friendly, but not overly pushy. You don’t want to scare people away!

It’s important to include your school name in the pitch so that the student knows you are affiliated with the university or college. They will be more likely to sign up knowing that it’s something that supports them & their school.
— Megg Murphy 2014-15 Florida State University TurboVote Coordinator at The Center for Leadership and Social Change

In the Classroom

Professors and instructors can play an important role in their institution’s voter engagement program. TurboVote’s technology makes it easy to bring voter registration and engagement into the classroom, without the professor or instructor having to know all the different requirements for each state, or having to keep track of filled out paper forms.  

Almost every method of bringing TurboVote into the classroom is effective — from small things like mentioning the program, to more substantial integrations, such as encouraging students to spend class time helping their peers register to vote. Encourage professors to find their own creative way to incorporate TurboVote and voter engagement into their existing programs and syllabi. 


I just provided some information on how easy it is to participate in the voting process by utilizing all these great new on-line social networking style tools! It is the future
— John Boyer, aka the Plaid Avenger Professor at Virginia Tech, on how he got 600 Virginia Tech students to sign up for TurboVote in one day

Not all faculty have the time to create new ways incorporate voter engagement into their coursework. You can support these time-strapped faculty by providing them with the language and materials needed in order to promote voter registration via TurboVote. Faculty members simply need to share with their students a link to your institution’s TurboVote site and encourage them to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, or request election reminders via the site.

It can be very beneficial to have the suggestion to faculty come from a dean, faculty senate chair, department head, or other faculty leader. We’ve provided a couple of templates and example emails that some of our partner institutions have used in the past. You can find the samples and templates In the Resources section of this toolkit.


Ideas:

  • Have faculty include a link to your institution’s TurboVote site on their e-course page, or include the website URL in their syllabi.
  • Ask faculty to give students 10 minutes one day at the beginning of class to sign up for TurboVote.
  • Better yet, incorporate voter registration and engagement into the curriculum of First Year Experience (FYE) courses! 
  • Encourage some friendly competition between sections — have TAs give their students a referral code for TurboVote and see who can get the most students to sign up.

Campus Events

On-campus events are a great way to create buzz and excitement around elections affecting your institution's community-- local, state or national level! Whether a concert or a speaker, events provide the opportunity for a major social media boost by sharing photos and videos, event hashtags, and involving students in campus-wide conversations. 

  • Debate watch parties, where students (or faculty and staff) come together to watch debates for upcoming elections, and discuss the issues with their peers.
  • Student surrogate candidate forum - arrange for student representatives from candidate clubs to debate each other and answer questions about their candidate’s positions.
  • Invite candidates for local office to campus to talk to students in a candidate forum.
  • Ain't no party like a voter registration party: Host a free concert on campus complete with food trucks, swag, and, of course, the opportunity to sign up for TurboVote.
  • Leading up to Election Day, work with Dining Hall staff to decorate all the dining halls so students won't forget to cast their ballot.
  • On key registration deadlines and election days, coordinate a "flash mob"-esque event where students run around campus with your school's mascot. 
  • Follow University of Idaho's lead, give students a ride to class and have them sign up for TurboVote on the way! 

Give some of these a try, and think of your own creative solutions as well. With a little bit of planning, you can have the whole incoming class signed up for TurboVote and ready to vote in no time!