Thousands of Stanford students register to vote ahead of midterm election

A campus-wide campaign to encourage participation in next week’s midterm elections has helped students register to vote.

Thousands of Stanford students have registered to vote in recent months, following a campus-wide voter registration campaign. The push for civic engagement is, in part, a response to a historically lower-than-average voter turnout among Stanford students, compared with colleges and universities nationwide. Although the midterm elections are just days away, students can always register to vote, and there are still opportunities to learn about the issues, including a day-long policy forum on campus that will include a keynote address by California Gov. Jerry Brown.


StanfordVotes Co-Director Antonia Hellman helps students register to vote at the “Party and the Post Office” event in October. (Image credit: Peggy Propp)

Since its launch last spring, the StanfordVotes campaign has signed up 2,592 Stanford students for voter registration, absentee ballot requests, ballot requests and election reminder sign-ups. That’s the most that Stanford has ever signed-up using a digital registration platform called TurboVote. The campus-wide effort has been led by the student-run Stanford in Government program, the Haas Center for Public Service and dozens of volunteers.

“Our goal from the outset was to make voting more present in everyone’s lives on campus, to make voting ‘cool’ and to get new voters involved in the democratic process,” said Antonia Hellman, ’21, co-director of StanfordVotes.

Since last spring organizers have held numerous events aimed at bringing more attention to the election and removing obstacles to students casting their votes. The recent “Party at the Post Office” welcomed Stanford students from out of state to get their ballots notarized and receive free stamps and envelopes, while a roundtable event with faculty was held to discuss the importance of voting. SIG members have also been holding voter registration events in White Plaza every Friday this quarter.

“These events were designed to support and engage the Stanford community,” said Christina Li, ’21, co-director of StanfordVotes. “This time around, in founding StanfordVotes, we really wanted to amp-up efforts and put in that extra push to increase voter participation.”

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), only 48.1 percent of eligible Stanford students – including undergrads, graduate students and postdocs – voted in the 2016 presidential election, compared with an average of 50.4 percent among all higher education institutions nationally. An even smaller percentage of eligible Stanford students – fewer than one in five – participated in the 2014 midterm election.

Hellman said the low turnout among students is particularly puzzling during a time of growing political division.

“There are a lot of complaints floating around about politics from both ends of the political spectrum, and many young people have their own political opinions, yet they do not vote,” she said. “This is baffling to me. If you do not vote, you are relinquishing your right to voice your hopes for our country.”

Li echoed that sentiment, adding that the importance of voting doesn’t pertain to just federal elections. “Local and state issues that directly affect one’s communities – housing, education and so much more – are also at stake in these elections, and so voting and making your voice heard can make a huge difference,” she said.

Although the midterms will take place next Tuesday, Nov. 6, there are still opportunities for students to learn about the issues. For some states, voters can still register for next week’s election.  Friday, Nov. 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is the final day that representatives from SIG will be in White Plaza to help students register. Also taking place Friday is a day-long policy forum at the Koret-Taube Conference Center hosted by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. The event will convene a number of high-profile policymakers, practitioners and academics who will explore issues facing the next governor of California.

Students who intend to vote on campus can do so at one of five polling places: the Haas Center for Public Service, Escondido Elementary School, Nixon Elementary School, Stanford West Apartments or Tresidder Union.

On Thursday, Nov. 8, the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), will convene a panel of Stanford experts to discuss the election outcomes. The public event will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Hauck Auditorium in the Traitel Building. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by Nov. 7 at 5 p.m.