The voting rate among Yale students was 56.7 percent for the 2016 presidential election — a 24 percent increase from the 2012 election, according to a report from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. Hoping to capitalize on that momentum, three Yale students, Jordan Cozby ’20, Harold Ekeh ’19 and Victoria Mak ’21, joined forces over the summer to co-found Yale Votes, a new coalition among Yale stakeholders aimed at increasing the political engagement and turnout of students come the 2018 midterm election.
Monday afternoon marked the initial meeting of the coalition partners, which included a number of undergraduate groups as well as the leaders of various graduate student bodies, the University Registrar and the Office of the Secretary. The organizations represented at the meeting included Yale’s chapter of Every Vote Counts — a national nonpartisan organization dedicated to tackling systemic problems in the American voting system — the Yale College Council, the Yale College Democrats, the Yale College Republicans, the Asian American Cultural Center, the Graduate Student Assembly, Dwight Hall and the Hamden Town Council, among others.
“[We want to] build up the presence, understanding and visibility of voting on campus, so when election day rolls around it’s not a surprise,” said Cozby, president of Yale Dems.
The goal of Yale Votes as a nonpartisan effort is to “create a space” for student organizations to come together and expand existing discrete circles and ideas, Cozby explained.
Yale Votes has been working to consolidate the registration and voting process for students to make it as easy as possible and shift the campus culture to make voting “a cool thing” to do, Cozby said.
The group hopes to achieve this shift by increasing accessibility to voting through online platforms via effective online software like TurboVote — an application that helps registered users keep track of relevant local, state and federal elections and assists with voter registration documentation — which the University registrar and Yale ITS have been working together to provide students access to the application. Additionally, students will be able to fill out a “pledge to vote” form through the Every Vote Counts website, as part of a competition with Harvard. “Everyone loves a good competition,” Ekeh said.
Through the process of collaboration and figuring “out what each group brings to the table,” Cozby said, various student organizations on campus can use their joint resources to work together and further the overall goal of getting Yale students out to vote in 2018.
Ekeh, the president of Yale’s chapter of Every Vote Counts, echoed Cozby’s statement, saying that the organization plans to streamline various efforts among student organizations at Yale, unite administrators and students, and create a “synergy as we move forward” through the voting process in 2018.
To that end, each student organization partner has committed to three baseline objectives, according to Mak, vice president of Yale’s Every Vote Counts chapter: attending update meetings, encouraging club members to commit to vote and boosting Yale Votes’ presence via Yale media.
Online efforts aside, Yale Votes also has “all the infrastructure set up” for in-person events that would allow people to pledge, register and vote, according to Cozby. The organization plans to set up canvassing events at high-traffic locations on campus on National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 25, the Pledge to Vote Event on Oct. 13 and Election Day on Nov. 6.
A Vote by Mail event in mid-October will spread awareness for voting by absentee ballot, and a documentary on voting rights to be screened in early-October will “highlight how much a privilege it is to vote and how important it is to vote,” Ekeh said. Through these events in the months leading up to Election Day, Cozby said, Yale Votes will ensure that “everyone’s prepared [to vote].”
Cozby emphasized that Yale Votes is committed to creating a neutral forum for people to register to vote and to provide resources across the board, regardless of home state or party affiliation.
Students “have their knowledge base going in,” Cozby said. “[Their vote] is up to them.”
Ultimately, Ekeh said, Yale Votes aims to harness people’s energy and excitement about pressing political issues and help them “stand up for issues in a very concrete way.”
Allison Park | firstname.lastname@example.org