5 ways the U is helping students register to vote

For your vote to count, you need to vote. And to vote, you need to register. Organizations across the university have shown a commitment to expanding voter access and have created opportunities for students to register in the lead-up to the 2020 general election. Below is a sampling.

Higher Education Presidents' Commitment to Full Student Voter Participation

U President Ruth Watkins has signed the Higher Education Presidents' Commitment to Full Student Voter Participation, part of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. In signing the commitment, Watkins acknowledges the role of higher education in preparing students to be informed citizens and the importance of the student vote in all elections.

“At the University of Utah, we take seriously our responsibility to educate our students about the importance of being engaged citizens,” she said. “This was displayed on the world stage during the historic vice presidential debate held at Kingsbury Hall. Civic engagement is a core value of our democracy and I am delighted that students were able to experience firsthand how being involved in the political process matters.”

Pac-12 Voting Challenge

Watkins and the other Pac-12 presidents have also endorsed the Pac-12 Voting Challenge, in which the U has taken a leading role.

TurboVote

The Hinckley Institute of Politics has partnered with TurboVote to provide an all-in-one voter registration tool, regardless of home state, that can be found at hinckley.utah.edu/voter-registration. Students can also sign up for election-related text or email reminders. Since 2018, more than 1,200 students have registered through TurboVote.

“Hinckley Institute students and staff work tirelessly each election season to register and engage voters,” said Jason Perry, vice president for government relations and director of the Hinckley Institute. “This year, we found creative ways to register new voters and provide online forums and debate watch parties so students and community members can learn about candidates and issues. Fostering an engaged and informed citizenry is a central part of the Hinckley Institute and is something not even a pandemic can stop.”

On-campus polling location

In partnership with the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office, the University of Utah has hosted an on-campus polling location beginning with the 2016 general election. This year, the Huntsman Center serves as a polling location to facilitate physical distancing. Voters can also drop off mail-in ballots at the Huntsman Center on Election Day.

Andrew Goodman Foundation partnership

On National Voter Registration Day (Sept. 22, 2020) the Hinckley Institute and ASUU partnered with the Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) to hold registration events at the Union and at the Marriott Library. As part of the effort, the Hinckley Institute and AGF ran a social media campaign in which students explained why they chose to vote. The registration drive resulted in around 35 students registering in person and 67 registering through TurboVote.

AGF is a national organization promoting voting among young voters. The U is one of 60 schools partnering with AGF, and the partnership has helped more than 3,500 students register to vote since 2015. Three student ambassadors representing AGF develop a student engagement plan.

COVID-19 has moved many voter registration efforts online, said Kyle Tucker, Hinckley Institute administrative program coordinator. “We have had to change our traditional efforts pretty drastically and most of our energy is now spent on virtual partnerships and social media campaigns,” he said. “We have been involved with events like the Virtual Get Involved Fair along with events that we have arranged with various entities on campus as efforts to register students to vote.”

Lauren Harvey, associate director of the ASUU Government Relations Board, served as an AGF ambassador. “COVID-19 has turned the traditional ways of registering students to vote upside down,” she said. The majority of her efforts took place virtually or through social media. “However, I was lucky enough to have gotten clearance to register students to vote in person on National Voter Registration Day which was super rewarding.”

In light of these efforts, it’s no surprise that the U was named a “Voter Friendly Campus” in 2016 and 2018 by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

Mail-in ballots have already been sent to registered voters and the deadline for online voter registration is Oct. 23, but you can register to vote in-person at an early voting location or a polling location on Election Day with two forms of identification. Learn more about registration requirements here.