Student organizations across campus have been hosting events, canvassing and tabling on Cross Campus and in community spaces to encourage students to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.
The Yale College Democrats, Yale College Republicans, Every Vote Counts and the Yale College Council rallied together earlier this year to found “Yale Votes,” a coalition that aims to increase political engagement among students. According to Jordan Cozby ’20, co-founder of Yale Votes, the purpose of the coalition is to encourage students from different groups on campus to work together toward the common objective of increasing voter turnout among Yale students.
“I think a big part of the motivation for a lot of this programming is a recognition that people — particularly students — are very excited or more motivated to vote when they see other people doing it,” said Cozby, who is also president of the Yale College Democrats. “So … to raise awareness of this election and to create a culture of voting at Yale — that’s really our goal with a lot of programming.”
On Sept. 25, Yale Votes tabled on Cross Campus for National Voter Registration Day, helping over 400 students register to vote. On Tuesday, the coalition hopes to cap off their efforts through organizing events at or close to polling places, according to Cozby.
According to Harold Ekeh ’19, president of Yale chapter of Every Vote Counts — a nonpartisan, student organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout and access nationwide, the organization encourages voting with celebrations. To attract more students to vote, Ekeh said that Yale Votes will set up tables with music and food outside of polling places. He added that they will place volunteers at each location to answer any questions.
The University administration has also encouraged students to vote in the upcoming elections. Working in conjunction with the YCC, the administration integrated TurboVote, an online software that helps users to register to vote or request absentee ballots, with the Student Information Systems. According to Ekeh, TurboVote allows users to register to vote in under two minutes.
YCC President Sal Rao ’20 said that part of the reason Yale Votes and the YCC chose to advocate for TurboVote was its success at other campuses.
“We chose it for a variety of reasons … primarily, because it is an incredibly intuitive technology, in that it integrates itself with preexisting Yale Student Information Systems,” Rao said in a statement to the News. “As a result of this I think — and also another reason why we chose the software — it proved to be incredibly successful at peer institutions like Northwestern, where it helped to bump the student registration rate up to 96 percent.”
According to Cozby, even though Yale launched TurboVote after the organization started calculating results of most engaged campuses, Yale is one of the top 25 schools in the country based on percentage of students who have registered or signed up through the program.
Ben Zollinger ’19, president of the Yale College Republicans, is also working with Yale Votes. Zollinger said that while the Republicans have held voter registration drives in the past — alone or in conjunction with the Yale College Democrats — their previous efforts were not as “far-reaching.”
The Yale College Democrats will ramp up their own programming efforts in the next few days. According to Timothy White ’20, the organization’s elections coordinator, the student political group has canvassed for candidates including Ned Lamont SOM ’80, the Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut, and Jorge Cabrera, a Democratic candidate for state senate, almost every weekend since last September.
White said that the Dems will be hosting various phone banks in the days leading up to the election, as well as knocking on University dorms to ensure that Yalies registered in Connecticut have plans to vote.
“We’ve definitely put in more effort this fall than we do most falls specifically because of the [Connecticut] governor’s race and because of the [Connecticut] state legislator[’s] race,” White told the News. “Because the [Connecticut] governor’s race is very competitive, and the state senate is very competitive … that just makes the work that we do much more meaningful.”
In addition to explicit partisan advocacy efforts, other student organizations on campus have hosted election-related events.
The Yale Politics Initiative, a student initiative that brings leaders across the political spectrum to campus, recently held an event with Sen. Chris Murphy D-Conn. — the inaugural event in their new series featuring members of Congress in conversation with leading Yale faculty. Michael Michaelson ’20, co-founder of the initiative, said that Murphy was “particularly excited” to visit Yale before election day so he could inspire more students to vote.
“He closed by saying the best way for young people to effect change is to go vote — and to work hard to encourage others to vote too,” Michaelson said.
Cozby and Ekeh both said that student and youth excitement surrounding voting has greatly increased at Yale and across the country during this year’s midterm elections. Cozby said this could be attributed to several factors, including competitive elections and divisive political issues. He noted that people across the political spectrum are “more engaged,” adding that it was “exciting” to see increased nationwide involvement in politics.
Ekeh agreed, adding that midterm elections typically see a lower voter turnout among students than presidential elections.
“I think definitely there is an increasing awareness of how important elections are and how important voting is,” Ekeh said. “In a nonpartisan way, everyone’s just becoming increasingly clear that we need people to vote. It’s no longer okay to sit on the sidelines.”
The 2018 midterm elections will be held on Nov. 6.
Aakshi Chaba | firstname.lastname@example.org .