Grassroots Efforts at USC Launch TurboVote Success
During the 2016 election cycle, the University of South Carolina (USC) showed tremendous growth in voter registration efforts. Previously dissatisfied with relying on paper registration forms, USC sought a platform which would allow for a more effective way of increasing voter turnout and for administrators to better gauge the impact of various efforts. The search led to TurboVote, and USC became a partner just in time for the 2016 presidential election. With a creative implementation of TurboVote involving both the administration and student leaders on campus, USC engaged nearly 3,700 students in its first election year as a TurboVote partner.
Ryan Patterson, a leadership coach at the USC Leadership and Service Center, explained the influence student leaders had on their peers in implementing TurboVote. Lead the Way, a group started by students passionate about civic engagement and democracy, was one of the many organizations on campus that sought to coordinate voter registration outreach and get students to vote. In addition to exposing students to TurboVote through tabling in high-traffic areas, Lead the Way started a series of forums dedicated to various topics such as media and politics, environmental justice, and women in leadership to attract students to the registration tables. Guest speakers for these forums included a reporter from Politico and a U.S. Patent and Trademark officer, which gave the forums even more publicity and buzz amongst the students.
Ryan gives full credit to this student-led grassroots efforts for USC’s success in the 2016 election cycle. With a platform like TurboVote that provides user data, student organizations such as fraternities and sororities engaged in a friendly competition to sign up students. The excitement for the overwhelming success of voter registration was so strong on campus that even the University President’s office got involved. When there was a tie between two competing student groups, President Harris Pastides personally donated to the prize fund so that both organizations could donate to their charities of choice. In total, USC managed to sign up nearly 3,700 students for TurboVote.
The students and administration of USC are committed to upholding the principles of civic engagement on campus. The passion for voting that the students demonstrated, alongside the administration’s willingness to support its student leaders, has set up USC to remain a successful and trendsetting TurboVote partner well into the future.