For many students, the biggest barrier to voting is often registering to vote. GU Votes is working to change that.
GU Votes, part of the McCourt School’s Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics), has a clear goal to make voting easy and accessible for students. Since its inception, the student-led initiative has wasted no time accomplishing ambitious voter registration goals. Due in part to their civic engagement strategies, the voter turnout among eligible Georgetown students increased by an impressive 143% in the past few years—from 20.1% in 2014 to 49.0% in 2018.
Seeing Results On The Hilltop
While general elections historically tend to have higher turnout than midterm elections, more Georgetown students turned out to vote in last year’s midterm election than in the 2012 presidential election. According to data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, 6,448 Georgetown students voted in 2018 compared to 2,371 students in 2014. Additionally in 2018, student voters on the Hilltop far exceeded the average campus voting rate with a 49.0% turnout rate compared to 39.1% nationally.
“We have streamlined voting down to just a few steps for students on campus,”
Andrew Straky (COL ’20), GU Votes Director of Outreach
In 2016, GU Votes boosted the student body’s voter registration rate to an impressive 90%—one of their proudest accomplishments. GU Votes is now focused on making absentee voting easier, as most Georgetown students choose to vote from their hometown rather than DC.
This year, GU Votes achieved one of their most sought-after goals: the integration of an online voter registration portal with class registration on MyAccess. This gives Hoyas easy access to voter registration resources when signing up for courses or updating their personal information. Members of the Georgetown community can access voting resources and check their registration any time at bit.ly/guvotes.
Dorm-Storming for Votes
For many students, the biggest barrier to voting is often registering to vote in the first place. This is where GU Votes’ tradition of “Storm the Dorms”—an annual drive on National Voter Registration Day—comes in. With the McCourt School’s continued guidance and new support from the Andrew Goodman Foundation, the group has been able to professionalize and expand their efforts in student registration over the years.
This year, Storm the Dorms took place on Tuesday, September 24th. More than 50 student volunteers, including members of College Democrats and College Republicans, set up tables and laptops across campus to register hundreds of Georgetown voters.
Storm the Dorms volunteers help students register in DC or vote absentee in their home state. If students want to vote absentee, GU Votes provides resources to help with the absentee process. “Many students don’t think about meeting registration and ballot request deadlines until it’s too late,” Straky said. “We want to make sure we provide resources well in advance so that by the time elections are happening, students only need to think about who to vote for.”
Innovative Voting Solutions
Searching for innovative solutions to absentee ballot concerns, GU Votes developed the Voter Dropbox Program ahead of the 2018 elections with support from the Georgetown Office of Residential Living. The initiative simplifies the absentee ballot request process for college students with Vote Everywhere’s online voter portal, a “one-stop shop” for voter registration, absentee ballot requests, and more resources. Students simply type in their voting information, print a form, and bring it to one of the secure dropboxes located across campus equipped with pre-stamped envelopes.
By teaming up with the McCourt School, college administrators, and the Office of Residential Living, GU Votes has been able to send campus-wide emails and hold voter registration drives in campus residential communities. GU Votes continues to play a vital role on campus with their focus on civic responsibility and the bipartisan support of the College Democrats and College Republicans.