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    A Blog from GradHacker and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online

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The Grad Activist: Get Out the Vote

Tips and resources that will help you get out the vote on campus.

October 1, 2018
 
 

Ingrid J. Paredes is a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at New York University. You can find her on Twitter @ingridjoylyn.

According to a study performed by researchers at Tufts University, 61.4 percent of eligible adults turned out to vote in the 2016 election, but only 48.3 percent of eligible students voted. Historically, the numbers are even lower for midterm elections. This year, though, institutions and activist groups have been leading Get Out the Vote (#GOTV) efforts nationwide, registering new voters and encouraging them to make it to the polls on November 6.

Graduate students should be getting to the polls too. Whether the proposed policies are direct hits at academia, like the proposed graduate tax bill, or issues that affect us all, like healthcare, we need to vote to be heard. But it goes even farther than that: our graduate institutions need to encourage to vote.

With that in mind, here are some tips and resources that will help you get out the vote on campus.

Step 1: Register to Vote.
If you are eligible to vote, register! If you are unsure of whether or not you are already registered at your current address, you can find out here. In some states, you can even register to vote online. Voter registration guidelines vary by state, so it never hurts to double check your status.

If you are away from your home state for school, remember that you can register to vote using either your school address or home address. If you choose to remain registered at home, find out how to obtain an absentee ballot in case you can’t make it back in time to vote.

Step 2: Encourage your campus community to vote as well.
Ask your friends if they’re registered to vote! STEMVotes, an initiative that hopes to improve STEM student voter turnout, has suggested bringing voter registration forms to department happy hours. Rock The Vote’s state-specific event toolkit is available online for free in case you’d like to host a larger event.

If you teach, consider going over your state’s voting guidelines for a few minutes in class and distribute voter registration forms to your students. Avoid assigning big assignments or giving an exam on election day, and remind students to vote. Remember, though, you can’t give students any compensation—monetarily or academic—for registering or voting!

Step 3: Learn about your candidate’s position on the issues that are important to you.
Connect the issues at hand in the election to the concerns of your peers to encourage them to vote. At NYU, I helped organize voter registration drives and a panel on science policy featuring students, lawyers, and scientists advocating for evidence-based policy with March for Science NYC. After the event, we shared a list of 10 STEM questions Science Debate asks of each candidate, and we’ve hosted phone banks and e-mail writing campaigns to find out where our candidates stand on issues from cybersecurity to climate change.

Step 4: VOTE!
Make a voting plan ahead of time. If you can physically make it to the polls, schedule a time that day to go. Find out where your polling place is and identify a route to get there. You can even make an event of it—ask others in your department if they’d like to go to the polls together. If you think you might be unable to make it to the polls, find out if your state offers early voting or how to obtain an absentee ballot. Whatever it is, make sure you get out the vote!

Have you participated in a Get Out the Vote effort on campus? Tell us about it on Twitter @GradHacker.

[Image by Flickr user K. Latham and used under a Creative Commons license.]

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