For the past three years, Vassar College’s chapter of Democracy Matters has turned voter registration into one of their most important and successful events of the year. This is largely because they have developed a unique strategy to meet with and successfully register large numbers of students.
At Vassar, during freshman orientation, every new student must sign a book of matriculation in order to become an official Vassar student. Our interns saw potential in this concentrated traffic, so they partnered with the school’s administration to install tables for voter registration in the same room as the book. Therefore, right after a student signs the book, an administrator directs that student towards Democracy Matters for the option to register to vote.
This registration program is in its third year at Vassar and the event has been ingrained in the social consciousness of the campus as it has been permanently added to the orientation programming.
On August 28th, over the course of six hours, Vassar’s two Democracy Matters campus coordinators, Sophie Gonsalves-Brown and Samuel Beckenhauer, and four members of their club were able to register 362 students in a class of 668. That’s more than half of the entire freshmen class!
Of the 362 registered, 132 were registered in Dutchess County, NY (home of Vassar) and 230 in the location of their home addresses (this latter group was registered with a voter registration software called TurboVote).
Our intern Sophie had this to say about the success: “Considering approximately 15% of the 2019 class was ineligible to vote because of age or citizenship status, to have registered 362 freshmen is frankly remarkable. I think our non-partisan status and committed, enthusiastic student volunteers fostered a good environment in which everyone who wanted to register could do so regardless of political beliefs or background.”
The success of this voter registration drive also helped the Vassar chapter in its political organizing. Our intern Samuel told us, “I believe that showing we are interested in tangible action at the local level, as well as being non-partisan is the most effective recruiting tool we have. There is no explanation necessary, everyone gets it.”
Samuel continued, “The 130 that registered are now a voting bloc. They can vote and make demands of their representatives. In the upcoming months, the Vassar chapter will provide these students with information about the upcoming elections, including information about the candidates and how and where to vote”. The club hopes to continue to register students to vote up until the registration deadline on October 9th.
In the past three years, Vassar has registered almost 1000 students.
Update: Turbovote highlighted our interns’ efforts in their recent email update! (Read it here). Our interns singlehandedly put Vassar in fifth place among participating school in total number of voters registered and second place in percentage of the student body registered! Wow! Go Vassar!