In the final days before the general election on Nov. 3, student groups across campus have been working to mobilize their members and the student body.
Centralizing their efforts through Yale Votes, a nonpartisan coalition including Every Vote Counts, the Yale College Council and the Yale College Democrats, student organizers are striving to ensure that eligible students vote and get involved with the campaigns of candidates up and down the ballot.
The Yale chapter of Every Vote Counts, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to expanding voter rights and turnout, has been ramping up their mobilization efforts, especially by tabling on Cross Campus and distributing information about voting. Meanwhile, the YCC has confirmed that their entire membership will be registered to vote by Nov. 3rd, as well as working under Yale Votes to ensure that directors of undergraduate studies email out reminders for students to register to vote and request absentee ballots and holding office hours to address additional questions. Although Yale College Democrats is itself a partisan organization, it undertakes nonpartisan efforts as a member organization of Yale Votes by encouraging voter registration and civic participation on campus.
Operating independently of Yale Votes, the Yale College Democrats held a Day of Action on Oct. 24, inviting students to participate in a four-hour phone banking session on behalf of presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as Senate hopefuls Sara Gideon of Maine, Theresa Greenfield of Iowa and Jaime Harrison of South Carolina.
“Reaching voting-eligible members of the Yale community beyond those who closely follow politics has been a priority for EVC since we started on campus” said Voter Engagement Coordinator of EVC Matthew Youkilis ’24. “Only 56.7 [percent] of Yale students voted in 2016, and we’ve done all that we can in the years since then to change that, culminating in a final push this semester.”
Most campus voter groups started planning their mobilization efforts long before the COVID-19 pandemic limited the extent to which they could campaign in person.
For example, the Yale College Democrats typically take a trip to canvas for candidates in states with particularly competitive races over the fall break, explained President of Yale College Democrats Molly Shapiro ’21.
“We were planning to go to Pennsylvania this year, which would have been incredibly fun, and to knock for Joe Biden and down-ballot candidates,” said Shapiro. “Obviously, that didn’t happen, so we wanted to do something to replicate the excitement that that would have brought.”
The Yale College Democrats have also worked to organize Yale Mobilize, which Shapiro described as a coalition of “15 to 20 student organizations,” all of which have pledged to register their entire membership to vote and participate in a political engagement event like Saturday’s Day of Action.
According to Shapiro, the group hopes to emphasize the relevance of this election to all student groups, including those that do not expressly identify as political organizations.
EVC has spent most of the fall organizing initiatives to increase voter turnout at Yale.
“We’ve been on Cross Campus every day from the end of September through October conducting outreach in a COVID-safe way, with volunteers there to provide information and support; we have answered questions, printed registration forms and absentee ballot applications and distributed stamps and envelopes,” EVC Co-President Clara Lew-Smith ’22 told the News.
YCC’s partnership with Yale Votes has also sparked a range of initiatives dedicated to increasing voter turnout at Yale. According to YCC Civic Engagement Chair Sam Brody ’24, some of the initiatives the YCC has launched in partnership with Yale Votes include making free stamps available to all students and offering free printing of materials for voter registration and requesting absentee ballots.
Yale Votes will also be sponsoring a virtual discussion at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 27, featuring former White House Speechwriter and founder of Citizen University Eric Liu. EVC Voter Engagement director Jonathan Schwartz ’21 said that the discussion will focus on, “restoring America’s democratic institutions and building a more inclusive and effective democracy.”
In addition to pre-election initiatives, Yale Votes is also planning to create a hotline for students to call with voting-related questions on Nov. 3.
According to Lew-Smith, EVC will “be having an adapted, socially distanced version of our usual Party at the Polls event on Cross Campus to motivate people to vote, and to make Election Day feel special even though the circumstances are very different this year.”
Representatives from Yale College Republicans did not respond to requests for comment.
The general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The deadline to register to vote in the state of Connecticut is Oct. 27.
Lucy Hodgman | firstname.lastname@example.org