Student groups pledge 100 percent voter engagement

June 24, 2020
Student groups pledge 100 percent voter engagement
On June 24, more than 50 student organizations across Harvard University announced their pledge to register, engage, and turn out 100 percent of voter eligible members ahead of Election Day 2020.

The Pledge to 100% comes at a time when the University is taking further steps to build a civic culture and institutionalize full participation in elections, despite the current remote environment. Initial organizations to adopt the pledge include: Association for Black Harvard Women, the Harvard College Republicans and Democrats, the Fleur-de-Lis Club, Harvard Law School’s Equal Democracy Project, and Harvard Veterans Alumni Organization.

Leading up to the 2020 elections, Harvard Votes Challenge, a civic engagement and voter participation initiative led as a collaboration between students, administrators, and faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics and Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, is working to ensure eligible affiliates across Harvard’s 12 degree-granting schools are prepared to vote this fall.

By signing the Pledge to 100%, each campus organization commits to engage its members in civic conversations, voter engagement trainings, and educational programming to ensure all eligible voters are prepared to cast their ballot this fall and in all future elections. The Harvard Votes Challenge commits to supporting campus organizations with toolkits and resources to support the pledge.

“Voting can become a key part of what it means to be a Harvard student. Creating a mass movement of friends, blockmates, and student organization leaders will help us get there,“ said Harvard Votes Challenge student co-chairs Kevin Ballen ‘22 and Amanda Powers ‘21 in a joint statement.

Organizations on campus that have taken the pledge are planning creative ways to engage their members in the voting process in a remote learning environment. They are organizing virtual town halls to talk about turnout and local elections, utilizing Big/Little relationships in Greek life and peer mentoring programs to hold members accountable to requesting absentee ballots, integrating civic conversations into virtual recruitment, and hosting celebratory events.

This spring, Harvard Votes Challenge collaborated with the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association (AAA) to co-host BAAAllots and Boba, a community event where students could register to vote and check their registration status, hear voting stories from their peers, and enjoy some boba.

Alexander Park ‘23, the APIA Vote Chair of the Asian American Association, said he is invested in breaking a negative stereotype surrounding Asian Americans and civic engagement.

“AAA’s mission, supported by HVC, to get 100 percent of its voting-eligible members registered and voting in 2020 is one important step in breaking this stereotype,” Park said. “In the fall, we are looking to host events about which issues Asian Americans might be interested in for the 2020 elections [and] highlighting Asian American candidates in local, state, federal elections along the way.”

Today’s Pledge to 100% announcement includes athletic teams and clubs, including the Varsity Men’s and Women’s Squash teams and the Men’s Club Volleyball team. Their pledge follows the Ivy League’s commitment to dedicate November 3rd as a day free of practices or sporting events to ensure student athletes have time to vote, become a poll worker, or volunteer, a policy change. This advocacy effort was led by Matt Thomas ‘22, captain of Harvard Varsity Baseball and co-president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. 

Thomas shared, “We are thrilled and encouraged by the unprecedented response and outpour of civic activism from Harvard’s student-athletes, the Harvard Athletics Department, and the Ivy League as a whole. We look forward to committing every team to 100% voter participation by November 3rd, and we hope schools all across the Ivy League follow our lead.”

The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), produced by Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, found that Harvard’s eligible student voter participation rate jumped to 48.6 percent in the 2018 midterm elections, doubling voting rates from 2014. Doubling again would reach 100%. This momentum has been bolstered by Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s recent Presidential Commitment to full student participation in elections through the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

The Harvard Votes Challenge invites campus organizations to join the Pledge to 100% by signing the commitment at Sign up for the Harvard Votes Challenge newsletter to stay up to date on important voting deadlines, access toolkits, and participate in upcoming trainings.

Our next Harvard Votes Challenge training will take place next Monday, June 29th at 11:00am and 5:30pm ET. RSVP here. For more information on casting your ballot and joining the Harvard Votes Challenge, prepare to cast your ballot by visiting our website and reach out to your Harvard school voting team representative.