A Different Style of Organizing on Campus
Traditionally to get students registered to vote, groups set up voter registration tables in front of the dining halls, library, or student union. However, something that will have significantly more impact is applying the same principles from a normal political campaign to the campus environment.
We all know based on multiple studies that the two most effective things someone can do to get someone to vote are to have someone they know talk to them and to have sustained (once a week) contact from people coming to their door giving them information on where candidates stand on issues that affect them AND including information on the deadlines and process needed to be followed in order to vote.
On campus, you can do both of these at one time and it is amazingly effective if sustained at the once a week contact rate over a 6 to 9 week period (the longer it is done the more effective it is, but doing it is always more effective than not doing it).
Yes, you guessed right…it is door-to-door in the Dorms.
Only a student who lives in the dorm where this is being done can do it, since most schools wouldn’t let a non-resident into the dorms.
But anyone who has ever lived in a dorm knows how easy it is for a student living in the dorm to walk down the hall knocking on the doors and talking to their fellow classmates about how to register to vote and what is going on regarding issues that affect them.
So, let’s keep applying the principles of campaigning to this…data is useful to help keep track of who you have talked to and what deadlines affect them based on where they decide to vote. Appendix C is a blank data sheet you can use to collect the core information you need to do this.
These data sheets will make it easy if you fill them out in the order you walk down the hall to help each person who wants to vote meet all the deadlines. We all live busy lives and we don’t want anyone to procrastinate away their rights and their voice at the moment where our very democracy is in the balance.
What are the most important things to do to make sure this is successful:
- Do it
- Try to contact each person once a week
- Help each person make a plan to vote (including meeting all the deadlines) that is right for them
Everything else can be adjusted based on what works for you.
For example to have a piece of paper with the deadlines and where candidates stand on the issues that you can leave as a reminder or if someone isn’t there when you stop by can be very useful for a lot of people, but it is significantly less important, especially in the context of a dorm, where you live in the same place and have multiple chances to see someone in a week, than just simply doing it and helping them figure out their plan.
Also some people might want text or email reminders and this can be very helpful.
Other people might have a friend who lives in a different dorm/different campus that wants to do something similar and may ask for a copy of this guide to share.
Some people may organize a team to do this to split up the work and others may just start doing it themselves. The important thing is the time window before voter registration deadlines is tight, so don’t let efforts to get people together for a meeting slow down the process of getting started in doing it.
We cannot wait for others to save us. It is very clear the supposed adults don’t have their shit together.
Who else can use this guide
The same dynamics that exist in dorms also exist in many types of off-campus student housing, sororities, fraternities, and apartment complexes with large numbers of younger voters.
Assess and adapt your strategy as you go.
Increasing your impact
Share this guide around and have friends and siblings in other dorms or on other campuses do door-to-door where they live.
Check in with them to see how it’s going.
Share lessons learned.
Developing a plan to vote
Studies have shown people are much more likely to actually vote if they develop a plan of what steps they will take to vote well in advance of election day and commit to someone they are going to follow through with that plan.
Make sure everyone knows that if they are in line by the time a polling place closes, the polling place must allow them to vote as long as they stay in line.
Voting itself is easy.
Contact info regarding this guide:
- Evan Coren (Former President of the Maryland State Federation of College Democrats) & Jessica Hill