Thanks to StanfordVotes, thousands of students have registered for the midterm election

Antonia Hellman
Antonia Hellman of StanfordVotes (Photo: Peggy Propp)

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 to colleges and universities nationwide.

Since its launch last spring, StanfordVotes 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 Stanford in Government (SIG), 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 events to draw attention to the election and remove obstacles to students casting their votes. A recent “Party at the Post Office” encouraged students from out of state to get their ballots notarized and receive free stamps and envelopes, while a roundtable event with faculty addressed the importance of voting. SIG members have also been holding Friday voter registration events in White Plaza.

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, 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 puzzling, especially 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.”

There are still opportunities for students to learn about the issues before Nov. 6, and in some states voters can still register. Friday, Nov. 2, 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 high-profile policymakers, practitioners and academics who will explore issues facing the next governor of California.

For more, read the full story in The Roundabout.