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A UD student registers to vote during the National Register to Vote Day in 2018.
A UD student registers to vote during the National Register to Vote Day in 2018.

Register to vote

Photo by Evan Krape

Students invited to participate in National Voter Registration Day event on The Green

This summer, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. On Tuesday, Sept. 28, dozens of University of Delaware community members, including UD junior Anya Sen, will be reminding young campus-goers to exercise that half-century old right by registering to vote.

There were several reports of more young voters turning out in 2020. But, historically, younger voters, including college students, have not always cast their ballot.

“I always tell people we don’t really have a right to complain if we’re not willing to vote,” said Sen, president of UD’s Make It Count campaign. “The best way you can see that change is to help be a part of it and get engaged.”

Make It Count will be one of many registered student organizations (RSOs) on UD’s Central Green from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday. Sen and her team will be joined by students representing Sunrise Newark, Let’s Talk, the Student Government Association, College Democrats and College Republicans. The UD Biden Institute and the Center for Political Communication (CPC) will also be providing support.

Among lawn games and UDairy ice cream, Sen and her team with Make It Count will be working alongside volunteers to help students register to vote or update their registration information. “Students passing by can simply scan a QR code on their phone, it will take them to UD TurboVote Portal and the whole process will take under five minutes,” said Sen. “If students have questions or want to talk, we’ll be here to help.”

National Voter Registration Day, a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrated on the fourth Tuesday of every September, was established to bring attention to voter registration opportunities and reach citizens who may not register otherwise. Beyond voter registration, organizers and volunteers have in recent years mobilized to encourage voters to sign up for election reminders, request mail-in ballots and explore early voting options.

“This is a great opportunity, especially for our first- and second-year students who haven’t engaged in these kinds of conversations in their lifetime to speak with their fellow students and education leaders so that they can learn more about the importance of registering to vote,“ said Alex Keen, assistant director of RSOs in the Division of Student Life, a unit within the University helping to organize the event.

Civic engagement at UD

In recent years, UD was recognized nationally for its voter registration and engagement efforts. In 2019, UD was presented with a gold seal for excellence in student voter engagement by the All In Campus Democracy Challenge. Furthermore, data collected by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), an initiative of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Learning, has shown that UD students have boosted their voter registration rate by nearly 27% since 2014. The University was also recognized by Washington Monthly as one of the best colleges for student voting in 2021.

“We continue to improve on the efforts of student voter turnout and registration every year,” said Lindsay Hoffman, an associate professor and the associate director for the CPC. “The more we do this and the more consistently we do this year after year, it becomes part of the story of being a UD student and it becomes part of who we are as a community. We’re getting to that place where this is becoming just a part of who we are at UD: we’re engaged.”

In the coming months, Hoffman and the CPC also plan to launch a UD-specific version of IssueVoter, a national platform that allows students to track and receive updates on the political issues most important to them.

“Celebrating voting goes beyond the registering and the voting process; it’s also about understanding what our representatives are doing after we’ve voted for them and after they’re in office, holding them accountable and being able to contact them easily. This platform will help students do just that,” said Hoffman.

In the meantime, Sen encourages any student interested in getting more engaged on campus to consider joining Make It Count or signing up for the RSO’s newsletter. Students, staff, faculty and UD community members can also get engaged by registering to vote or updating their voter registration by visiting the UD TurboVote Portal.

“Collectively,” said Sen, “both as an age group and as a student body, we have a formidable force of power that we can yield in elections to make sure that our voices and interests unique to our perspective are being heard and represented in government.”

About the UD Make It Count campaign

The UD Make It Count campaign is a nonpartisan, student-run movement with a mission to increase voter registration and nonpartisan civic engagement across UD’s campus and the state of Delaware through voter engagement drives, facilitated discourse and educational programming to create lifelong ambassadors for democratic involvement.

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