Around 400 students on Tuesday registered to vote with help from Yale Votes, a new coalition among Yale students that aims to increase political engagement and voter turnout on campus.
Sixty-eight volunteers at 23 different locations on campus used paper forms and TurboVote, an online tool for voter registration and absentee ballots requests, to help members of the Yale community with voter registration. While the majority of volunteers were undergraduates, around ten graduate students helped out, according to Yale Votes co-founder Jordan Cozby ’20.
“Essentially, we saw that there had been a lot of initiatives in the past to host voter registration drives, but these hadn’t been consolidated … The goal is to provide the opportunity to as many students as possible to get registered whether that’s in their home state or in Connecticut,” said Harold Ekeh ’19, president of Yale’s chapter of Every Vote Counts — a national nonpartisan organization dedicated to tackling systemic problems in the United States’ voting system.
Each volunteer was required to go through a training process held on Sunday night. Victoria Mak ’21 said she was surprised by the high number of “really excited” first years who participated as volunteers in the registration event.
According to Yale College Council President Saloni Rao ’20, the University Registrar’s office assisted in the funding of TurboVote as a tool to register students. The resource has been employed by other schools, such as Northwestern University, whose voter registration exceeded 96 percent of the student body, as of Sept. 2017.
Ekeh said that the volunteer group covered a “pretty wide spectrum” in terms of diversity of student groups and stakeholders on campus, who would “not necessarily be inclined [to register].”
Cozby, who is also president of the Yale College Democrats, noted that collaborating with the Secretary’s Office and the Registrar’s Office “made it a very successful endeavor.”
Rao assisted with the voter registration process by asking students as they entered Bass Café whether or not they had registered to vote. YCC’s partnership with Yale Votes represents a broader effort from YCC this year to do more on the ground to assist members of the student body.
“YCC has certainly never done anything to this magnitude or even related to it in the past,” said Rao. “We have not been representatives of students, and we have not been the glue of the student body. And these are our jobs.”
To reach more students across the University, Yale Votes works with the Graduate Student Assembly Service Committee. The committee was created in part as a response to am incident last May in which a white graduate student called the police to report a black graduate student sleeping in a common room of the the Hall of Graduate Studies.
In addition to helping promote Tuesday’s registration event, the committee will also place a voter registration table at their “First Friday at 5:00” and “Relax and Chill” events which will take place on Oct. 5 and Oct. 7 respectively. According to co-chair of the service committee Zach Marin GRD ’23, many graduate students in their first year of study at Yale may not be registered to vote in Connecticut, despite reporting a permanent transfer of address to the state. The committee is also working with Yale Votes to help more graduate students request absentee ballots.
“We think it’s important that everybody has the opportunity to vote,” said Marin. “It’s an important part of our democracy, and we wanted to make sure there’s no barrier to our students should they want to register to vote and cast their vote.”
Connecticut’s online voter registration deadline for 2018 general elections is October 30.
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