In an effort to strengthen civic engagement on campus, the Yale Votes Coalition has decided to pursue the designation of being recognized as a “Voter Friendly Campus,” a distinction that signifies a campus has invested in meaningful ways to engage college-aged voters.
The Voter Friendly Campus designation program, sponsored by NASPA and Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project, looks to “help institutions develop plans to coordinate administrators, faculty, and student organizations in civic and electoral engagement,” according to the program’s website. In order to be considered for the distinction, campuses are required to submit a plan and report the outcome in the general election. For the 2019–2020 year, 123 colleges and universities earned the designation.
The Yale Votes Coalition — currently a Yale College Council Task Force led by representatives of the Yale College Democrats, Every Vote Counts and the YCC — intends to use a new flagship plan, Yale Votes Partnership Initiative, to unify the student-body around the goal of earning the Voter Friendly Campus designation. Both on campus initiatives represent the ongoing efforts of the Yale Votes Coalition to strengthen voter education and turnout while also decreasing barriers to civic engagement on the Yale campus ahead of the 2020 election.
These two actions represent only the latest efforts of the Yale Votes Coalition to create a more civically-minded campus. In the past, they have facilitated TurboVote integration into SIS, sponsored the 2018 Harvard-Yale Votes Challenge and hosted multiple National Voter Registration Day Events.
“Over the next few months, the Yale Votes Coalition will be hosting voter engagement days, working with the administration and rolling out tools to help students register and vote,” read a statement from the Yale Votes Coalition leaders. “We intend to leave no stone unturned.”
At the request of the Yale Votes Coalition, the Yale administration made the decision to apply for the national designation of Voter Friendly Campus for 2020. According to an email from YCC Task Force Director Keon Azar ’22, the Voter Friendly Campus distinction represents a “‘gold standard’ of campus voting initiatives” and will provide Yale with resources and goals to work toward increasing voter participation in the 2020 election.
“The most important reason for pursuing this designation is that it sends a strong message: Yale is a community that cares about voting and civic engagement,” wrote Jonathan Schwartz ’21, Every Vote Counts voter engagement director and Yale Votes Coalition leader, in an email to the News. “Working towards this designation will unite us behind a common goal and give us useful resources to help pursue this goal.”
To help achieve this goal, the Yale Votes Partnership Initiative aims to activate and unify partner student groups as a means of increasing civic engagement in every corner of campus. The Yale Votes Coalition hopes that this will be a pivotal step toward helping them reach their ultimate goal — ensuring 100 percent voter turnout among eligible Yalies in the 2020 election. Campus organizations interested in becoming a partner must prioritize registering all of their members to vote, designate a Yale Votes point person, publicize key information and dates, recruit volunteers, host a voter engagement station and join the Yale Votes’ 2020 Census Coalition.
According to the statement from the Yale Votes Coalition, the group plans to invite every organization and student on campus to partner with them in their efforts to bolster voter turnout and civic leadership for the upcoming election.
Associate Vice President of Student Life Burgwell Howard is the administrative point person for the Yale Votes Coalition.
“While there is no shortage of courses on politics, democracy and government, universities often lack an effective and comprehensive way to teach their students a very fundamental component of civic participation: how to register to vote,” Howard said. “Our hope is to develop Yale Votes to make 50-state voter registration as streamlined and accessible as possible for the entire Yale community — enabling students to register and start voting at the same time they are starting their college careers.”
According to the Yale Votes Coalition’s statement, only 46.8 percent of eligible Yale students voted in the 2018 election.