Representatives from all eight Ivy League schools met at Harvard University this past weekend to discuss an Ancient Eight, nonpartisan voting challenge ahead of the 2020 election.

Taking inspiration from successful intercollegiate competitions, such as the Big Ten Voting Challenge, the representatives met at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School to brainstorm potential collaborations. The students and administrators present identified common goals and began to work on a competition among the universities as a means of increasing voter turnout and civic engagement on Ivy League campuses. Jonathan Schwartz ’21 and Philip Hinkes ’21, leaders of Yale’s Every Vote Counts chapter and the Yale Votes Coalition, represented Yale at the conference.

“It was great to connect with other like minded voter advocates,” Hinkes wrote in a statement. “Many of our institutions are trying to tackle similar problems when it comes to voter engagement on campuses, so the opportunity to plan and strategize together will be valuable.”

While the details of the voting challenge have yet to be finalized, Schwartz emphasized that unlike previous voting contests, the Ivy League competition will not solely measure which university has the highest percentage of voter turnout among eligible students. Instead, the challenge will use a checklist to track different tasks each university can do to increase voter participation and civic engagement. In this sense, the student representatives hope not only to increase votes, but also to shift the culture of democratic engagement at their universities.

“We aim to look at the quality of our initiatives, not just the numbers that come out as a result,” Schwartz said.

Ever since the Harvard-Yale voting challenge of 2018, students have been looking to devise a challenge that engages all the Ivy League universities. And this weekend, the Harvard team organized a conference for representatives from all eight schools, securing funding from the Foundation for Civic Leadership. Further, the students have received support from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, an organization that strives to make democratic engagement and programs “a defining feature of campus life,” according to its website.

Over the next few weeks, the group will continue to discuss ways to increase civic engagement on their campuses and will finalize the details of the voting challenge. The students, with the help of administrators, plan to work with the leadership of their respective universities to build more voter-friendly campuses and encourage other higher education institutions across the country to follow suit.

Hinkes and Schwartz emphasize that for students on Yale’s campus, there are a variety of nonpartisan groups focused on voting which students can join. According to a press release documenting the weekend, “Yale Votes and Every Vote Counts are looking for people to get involved in their work leading up to the 2020 election.” The release also mentions that campus organizations interested in civic engagement and voter turnout work ahead of 2020 are encouraged to join the newly created Yale Votes Partnership Initiative.

“It was absolutely inspiring to spend a weekend working together and sharing ideas about how to increase voter turnout and civic engagement on our campuses,” Schwartz said. “I’m looking forward to working with the Yale community to turn these plans into action over the next few months.”

The upcoming presidential election is scheduled for Nov. 3, 2020.

Julia Bialek | julia.bialek@yale.edu 

JULIA BIALEK
Julia Bialek currently covers student policy and affairs. She previously covered campus politics and is a sophomore in Saybrook College majoring in political science.