The Game will not be the only face-off between Yale and Harvard this year.
Yale Votes –– a new coalition of Yale student groups working to increase political engagement and voter turnout –– announced a competition against its Harvard counterpart on Tuesday to see which school can gather more pledges to vote. The competition will end on midterm election day Nov. 6 — less than two weeks before the historic matchup between Yale and its Cambridge rival.
“In brainstorming ways that Yale Votes could encourage student voting on campus, Harvard seemed like a natural partner,” said president of the Yale College Democrats and co-founder of Yale Votes Jordan Cozby ’20. “Our hope is to make voting a part of the larger student culture on campus. I’m really optimistic about the event and think we’ll see a lot of student interest.”
The competition will track voter engagement via a website called National Pledge to Vote, where students can make a commitment to performing their civic duty online. The webpage then presents students with links to online resources such as TurboVote, BallotReady and the Voter Information Project. These sites offer online voter registration, provide unbiased reports on candidates’ platforms and alert students to nearby polling places.
To kick-start the campaign and boost publicity, Yale Votes will host an outreach effort on Friday afternoon featuring free food, voter registration, a photo booth and pledge-to-vote tabling.
Harold Ekeh ’19, president of the Yale chapter of the national voter engagement organization Every Vote Counts, said he hopes the friendly competition with the University’s oldest rival will increase student civic engagement.
“I think everyone loves a good competition, so giving an incentive for students … to get people out to vote, and a little competition with Harvard should spark a little bit of excitement about voting. In general, we’re trying to change the culture around voting,” Ekeh said. “And we’ll see which school has the higher voting rate.”
The announcement for the competition comes a few weeks after National Voter Registration Day, when Yale Votes led a mass voter registration. The late September effort, which included 68 student volunteers stationed at 23 different locations on campus, yielded more than 400 new student voter registrations. The group used both paper forms as well as online registration via TurboVote.
More than 50 student groups on campus have joined the Yale Votes coalition, which has received funding from the University Registrar’s office for the implementation of TurboVote, an online voter registration website, into Yale’s online infrastructure.
Additionally, Every Vote Counts has developed a digital pledge to vote tool, that according to Cozby will be essential to Yale Votes’ success in the competition against Harvard.
According to Derek Paulhus, a representative for the Harvard Voter Challenge, the initiative has increased Harvard students’ interest in voting.
“Regardless of what team we support, we ultimately all have the same civic obligation to our country, which can be advanced through collaboration, even if it is in the form of a competitive challenge,” said Paulhus.
More than 79 percent of Yale students and more than 77 percent of Harvard students were registered to vote in the 2016 presidential election.
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Correction, Oct. 11: An earlier version of this article reported the representative from the Harvard Voter Challenge as Derek Paulson. His name is, in fact, Derek Paulhus.
Clarification, Oct. 11: An earlier version of this article described Every Vote Counts as a national voter registration organization, when the more accurate description would be a voter engagement organization.