SLU partners with TurboVote to boost voter turnout

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For the 2012 general election, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement from Tufts University reported a 50% voting rate at SLU. The same study found that in the midterm election of 2014, SLU’s voting rate dropped to a disappointing 18%.

Throughout the country, it is no secret that encouraging voter participation has been increasingly difficult, with a national rate of 53.6% of voting-age citizens turning out to vote in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. The numbers for off-year elections are much lower– 2014 brought only 33.6% voter turnout for the state of Missouri in the congressional race according to FairVote.org and for Missouri’s primary this August, turnout was even lower with a mere 24.8%, as reported by Missouri Secretary of State, Jason Kander.

These numbers prove the futility of the efforts around the country to increase the national population’s democratic involvement. That’s why this summer SLU partnered with TurboVote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort created by Democracy Works with a vision of helping Americans reach 80% voter turnout, which has not occurred since the 1880s. TurboVote has big-name sponsors helping promote their goal of 80%, including Starbucks, Spotify, Target, Airbnb, Univision and several others.

With its partnership, SLU hopes to give TurboVote a bountiful presence on campus to provide students with the tools and motivation they need to become more engaged in democracy.

TurboVote’s comprehensive approach to prepare and remind students to vote is different than that of similar civic engagement organizations. Online at slu. turbovote.org, their system can register students from all 50 states—not only Missouri—order absentee ballots and send reminders about polling locations and upcoming elections. If a student is already registered to vote, signing up is still beneficial, and enables them to receive email or text reminders about elections at all government levels.

Since a large percentage of SLU’s student body is from out of state and will need to order absentee ballots, Leah Sweetman, assistant director of Service-Learning in SLU’s Center for Service and Community Engagement explained,

“TurboVote will work with local elections commissions so that students can receive ballots in the way that state or jurisdiction allows…they will gather the information needed for voting and even mail it all to students. So if it’s requesting an absentee ballot or doing voter registration and it’s not available online in a state, TurboVote will provide the paper copies in the mail. It’s a very centralized system.”

She also stressed that the TurboVote team is constantly looking for more student volunteers and, fortunately, their presence in the SLU community will not disappear after the votes have been tallied in November. Sweetman went on to confirm that TurboVote will be involved on campus more often than just every four years and she hopes that it will maintain its position of democratic guidance for students all year, every year.

Next Tuesday, Sept. 27, is National Voter Registration Day. TurboVote volunteers will have tables at the Busch Student Center, the Center for Global Citizenship, and in the Allied Health Building’s Fresh Gatherings Cafe from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additionally, they will appear at the Social Justice Night event in the Busch Student Center at 6 p.m.

Besides National Voter Registration Day, SLU’s Department of Political Science will be putting on multiple watch parties for the Presidential debates beginning with the first on Sept. 26 in the Center for Global Citizenship, where TurboVote will also be present.

The deadline in Missouri to register to be able to vote this November’s election is on Oct. 12, and other states have similar deadlines. Students who register using their on-campus address will be able to vote in the Busch Student Center on Election Day.

Robbie Dealey, a senior at SLU who began volunteering for TurboVote this semester said, “Seeing the investment SLU is making is so invigorating. TurboVote is so user-friendly, and the polling place in the BSC on November 8 gives everyone even less of an excuse to not vote!”

As of Sept. 22, there will be 47 days until November 8. For some Americans this brings a jolt of excitement looking towards the future, and for others, a feeling of uncertainty and disillusionment. Regardless of emotions, however, all of the events local and national leading up to Election Day will be motivating voters to make their voices heard. A recent Gallup poll reporting for Sept. 14 through 20 shows 34% favorability of Trump and 39% favorability of Clinton among adults nationally.

The future may be uncertain, but if there were ever two candidates to catalyze voter participation, it would be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.