Goal: Engage young people in the political process
Objectives: Students will be able to:
- Register as many students as possible
- Recruit people to join Democracy Matters
- Spread the message about fair elections and money in politics
- Compete to see which chapter can register the most students
Materials: Voter registration forms, DM sign up sheet, pens, DM flyers, DM stickers, DM banner, DM pins, laptop (optional), table, clipboard
Time: One month
- Scout out locations on campus that will allow you and your group to access the most people (see suggestions below) and pick which days and at what times you want to occupy these areas to register people. Keep in mind that to run a campaign in some of these locations may require permission from the school. Check with the necessary administrators – food services, RA’s, student activities office, librarians, etc. Below are some suggested areas and times when you can reach a lot of new voters:
- First-year student orientation at the beginning of the semester. Get in touch with the office that coordinates these events and ask if Democracy Matters can have a presence and be involved with the orientation with the purpose of registering students to vote.
- Classes. Contact professors and ask if you can come into their class and take 10 minutes to talk about Democracy Matters and pass around voter registration forms. You can also set up a table right outside the classroom and approach people before they enter or after they leave.
- Cafeteria. Set up a table outside of the cafeteria or walk around inside from table to table asking people if they want to register. Contact the dining services department to get the necessary permission. You may also want to put table tents on each table with information about where and when you will be registering students.
- Dormitories. Contact RA’s and ask if you can either go door to door asking people to register or organize a hall or dorm meeting to register everyone at the same time.
- Sporting Events. Set up a table outside major sporting events and have people register as they enter or exit. Ask the sports department if you can put voter registration forms inside the program so people can fill them out during the game and then give them to your group as they exit.
- Fraternities and Sororities. The campus Greek systems can provide access to a large number of students. Approach different houses and ask if you can work with them in making sure their members are registered to vote. You may even want to solicit their help in reaching out to other campus groups. Different houses can host voter registration parties, where students of voting age are only allowed to enter if they are registered. Provide opportunities for people to register as they enter the party.
- Library. Work with librarians to allow students to access voter registration forms throughout the library. Ask for one computer to be set up specifically by your group to conduct online registrations. Have a clear display at the checkout desk with voter registration forms handy.
- Quads and Green Space. Reach out to students lounging in the quads and green space around campus. Make it fun and dress up as political icons (Bush, Obama, McCain, Clinton, etc.) or create your own eye-catching costumes to draw attention to your voter registration efforts. (DM students have dressed up as Democracy Man and Democracy Woman and used the DM banner as a cape to run around campus as caped crusaders saving Democracy from apathy and cynicism.
- Movie Screenings, Lectures, and Events. Table where people congregate for events – speakers, movies, concerts or other events Democracy Matters or other groups organize on campus – offering to register people to vote. Check out the Action Campaigns on the DM website for ideas of events, movies etc.
- Bar Hopping. A lot of students congregate in local bars, where they may be more willing to start up conversations with strangers. Ask the bar if they would be willing to provide any special deals for first time registrants.
- Order/download/print the necessary voter registration forms. They are free and available on a number of websites. Your college should wave any printing costs or SGA should be willing to pay for it. If not, Democracy Matters will reimburse you for any printing costs. Make sure you keep any receipts to turn in with your expense reimbursement form.
- You can also register to vote using online tools available at the following websites:
- Set up a table at your chosen location(s). Decorate the table with DM materials (banner, stickers, pins, five dollar flyers). Have clipboards prepared with the voter registration forms attached to them and provide pens for people to use. If you want to register people using one of the online services make sure that you have a couple of laptops and an internet connection. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to other groups and work together in registering voters, especially the political clubs (College Democrats, College Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, etc.). The only information students should need for registration are: first and last name, home address, DOB, and social security/driver’s license number.
- Have Democracy Matters flyers (Voter Registration Flyer 1, Voter Registration Flyer 2) with your contact information on them available to hand to everyone.
- Once people have registered have them sign up to receive updates from your Democracy Matters group (see sign up sheet). Tell people they can just receive updates about events DM is hosting or receive more frequent information about news and meeting times if they want to take a more active role in planning events and campaigns and learning more about money in politics.
- Keep a list of the names of everyone who has registered so you can follow up on election day.
- After you have collected all your paper registrations, place them in envelopes, provide the appropriate amount of postage and send them to the correct address (this information should be provided on the voter registration form). The school or the SGA should pay for postage, but if not, Democracy Matters will reimburse you for any such costs. Make sure that you keep any and all receipts to turn in with your reimbursement form.
- A week before the election send out a reminder email to everyone who registered that the time is approaching to actually exercise their right to vote. Also include any information about the local polling place and any services the school may be providing in getting students to the polls.
- (Optional) Include information on the candidates’ top campaign contributors and their stances on major issues (fair elections, environment, health care, the War in Iraq, economy, education). Or send out websites where students can get information on candidates such as project vote smart.
- (Optional) Hold a pre-election debate or discussion during the week leading up to the election. This is a good way to get students up to date and informed on the issues and excited to vote.