Voter registration at the U: together we are one
With more than 30,000 students and 20,000 staff members, the University of Utah is a small city unto itself, making the process of voter registration and engagement impossible without strategic planning and utilization of online platforms like TurboVote. Voter engagement efforts are co-led by the Government Relations Board of the Associated Students of the University of Utah—our student government—and our Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere Ambassadors, with assistance from organizations like Voterize and Voto Latino. The diversity of these groups allows us to reach the many unique communities in and around the University of Utah with a variety of events, voter registration drives, and initiatives.
A yearly commitment with bi-annual emphasis
At the University of Utah, we believe every election is important; and with students from every precinct in the state, there’s always a need for ongoing voter registration and turnout efforts. These initiatives often take shape as annual events, bi-annual debates, and regular voter registration drives.
Every year we kick things off by celebrating National Voter Registration Day in our Student Union Plaza. We invite food trucks, Labs for Liberty (a training program for seeing eye dogs), and our aforementioned coalition of voter registrants. This event is followed by weekly voter registration drives at consistent, marketed hours at both the student union, and the residential dining hall. This approach gives students a clear sense of when and where they can register to vote. During presidential or midterm elections, we also hold a Campaign Carnival, where all local, state, and national campaigns are invited to campus to talk with our student, staff, and faculty. This event allows participants to make a more informed decision on Election Day.
All information for campaigns can be found on the Government Relations Board’s website, making the event details easily accessible by our commuter, digital, and nontraditional students.
Lastly, voter registration trainings are held on a monthly basis to bring in new volunteers, generate enthusiasm, and create a sustainable, collaborative student leadership that outlasts any one student or faculty-mentor’s tenure.
How we use TurboVote
Not all of our students, faculty, and staff live or work on campus, and even fewer frequent the student union or residential dining hall. Medical students and professionals, Ph.D. candidates, and non-traditional students—just to name a few—need an avenue through which they can quickly register to vote and learn about upcoming elections. That’s where TurboVote comes in. By creating QR codes that link to TurboVote and adding links within our Student Government page and on social media platforms, we can reach far more students than we could have otherwise.
How we will measure success
Of course, we count any boost of civic engagement on campus as a success, no matter how small. However, as a community, we aim to see a steady increase in general student, faculty, and staff civic engagement over the years. For example, the University of Utah’s 2016 voting rate of 56.7 percent of the eligible voting population was a 1.2 percent increase from 2012, and 6.3 percent higher than the national average. Our goal is to increase this trend despite the ever-expanding student population.
Why planning is important
All the work we do wouldn’t be possible without student leadership deliberately and consistently planning every voter registration drive, every tabling event, every volunteer shift, and managing/merging every website far in advance of elections. This planning gives students time to be trained, time to plan, time to commit, and generally makes the process of voter registration less of a chore and more of a celebration of democracy, as it should be!