20 ways colleges are prepping for Election Day

One college has appointed a student to serve as an election engagement fellow

Virtual watch parties and dinners, voter registration competitions and free stamps are among the many ways colleges and universities are engaging their students and communities as Election Day approaches.

Meredith College in North Carolina, for example, has chosen a student to serve as a Campus Election Engagement Project fellow to facilitate voter registration, education and engagement.

Much of this student’s activities will take place virtually due to the pandemic.

The California Institute of the Arts will host Zoom watch parties for the three presidential debates and on election night.

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In New York, students in Colgate University’s Colgate Vote Project are making virtual visits via Zoom to dozens of classrooms to pitch voter registration

Here are Election Day initiatives underway at several other colleges and universities:

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The Center for Democracy and Civic Life’s “Cast Your Whole Vote” campaign focuses on voting as only one part of getting involved in shaping the future of communities.

The campaign encourages students to reflect on their values and listen to different perspectives.

A virtual 'Dinner with Friends' at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County brings students, faculty, staff, and alumni together for conversations about issues affecting each other's communities.
A virtual ‘Dinner with Friends’ at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County brings students, faculty, staff, and alumni together for conversations about issues affecting each other’s communities.

The center is hosting virtual “Change Makers” dinners in which local leaders address structural racism and voting with small groups of the campus community.

The university also plans to “support civil, supportive conversations” in case the presidential race is not resolved on election night.

Wichita State University, Wichita, KS

Shockers Vote! includes virtual round-tables and voter-registration to blend civic learning and political engagement.

The campaign will award a $500 prize to the campus organization that registers the most students to vote.

The university’s Charles Koch Arena is an early-voting site while the Cadman Gallery is hosting an exhibit focus on political engagement by first-generation immigrants.

Lehigh University

The diverse electorate in Northampton County, Pennsylvania—where Lehigh is located—is considered a “bellwether” in presidential elections.

On Oct. 3, Lehigh students, staff and faculty will canvass the neighborhood that surrounds the campus. They will inform families about weekly food distribution and to promote voter registration, with a particular focus on Latinos, who account for 25% of the county’s population.

University of Rochester

The University of Rochester and Democracy Works have created a portal where students, staff and faculty can register to vote, request absentee ballots and take other steps to participate in the election.

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In the classroom, political science professor Gretchen Helmke is teaching a seminar on threats to democracy in the U.S. and abroad.

Lafayette College

Lafayette Votes! is fielding a largely remote team of 30 students, faculty and staff to coordinate a series of panels, discussions, interviews, debates and social media campaigns for students on the Pennsylvania campus.

During the first presidential debate, the team will host an in-person and online watch party with interactive real-time polling and commentary.

Smith College

Smith College’s Spatial Analysis Lab is offering a series of workshops on how to best interpret election maps.

The workshops, which will cover topics such as gerrymandering, are designed to make students better consumers of maps and polling information.

York College of Pennsylvania

The college’s athletic teams are participating in a voter registration competition on TurboVote platform.

The college joined the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and the Pennsylvania Campus Voting Challenge. It is also joining Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement to help colleges and universities better understand student engagement in voting.

Hamilton College

Hamilton College is located in New York-22, one of the top five most competitive House races in the entire country.

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HamVotes, the college’s nonpartisan team of administrators and student ambassadors, is working with the campus mail center to pre-pay for stamps for students’ mail-in and absentee ballots.

If COVID safety measures can be met, the group plans to transport students to their polling location.

In addition, Hamilton and other institutions in the New England Small College Athletic Conference have set a goal of increasing voter turnout by at least 11% across the organization’s 11 campuses.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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