NC College Voter Summit prepares students to #votehot
On September 10, nearly 60 student leaders from 17 NC campuses gathered at Elon University for a full Saturday of training on best practices for non-partisan voter engagement. In whole group and break-out sessions led by veteran organizers from Democracy NC, the Campus Vote Project, and NC PIRG, students dug into such topics as: working with your local board of elections, effective use of social media, and using voter pledges to get-out-the-vote.
Democracy NC organizer Marcus Bass kicked off the morning by telling the story of voting in the United States, drawing a line from the Founding Fathers, through the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements, to the passage in 1971 of the 26th Amendment granting 18-year-olds the right to vote, and finally to the students present in the room.
Bass declared, “This is what democracy looks like.”
Mike Burns, national director of the Campus Vote Project, provided an update on the current North Carolina voting rules in the wake of the federal court of appeals decision. Burns also pointed out key supports for college student voting. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Symm v. U.S. held stricter residency standards for college students are unconstitutional, thus protecting students’ choice to register to vote in a campus community or a parent’s residence (but NOT both!). Burns also noted the Higher Education Act’s mandate that colleges and universities “make voter registration forms widely available your students and distribute those forms individually.” In a subsequent session, Burns dispelled some common myths that might deter students from registering in NC.
During her session on local issues and social media, Democracy NC staffer Jen Jones asked students why they’d given up a Saturday to learn about voter engagement, and live-streamed their comments.
“We came to be a resource for others because they don’t teach you how to do this in high school,” said one Western Carolina student. “It’s not something everyone knows how to do, especially if you’re a kid, eighteen, coming to a big campus you don’t know how to get involved.”
“We’re the biggest population since the baby boomers,” said another participant. “If anyone is going to make a change it will be our generation.”
During lunch, students from several schools shared lighting presentations of work they were doing. Among the presenters, CEEP Election Engagement Fellow Timira Conley (NCSU) shared the Pack the Polls initiative, and Elise Wilson (UNCW) shared the schedule of events planned for UNCW Votes week. Elon University’s Vote Everywhere Ambassadors June Shuler and Gabby Vance shared their campus commitment to a cross-departmental collaboration in the Elon Votes! project.
Together, the student leaders who attended the summit have a chance to engage more than 200,000 students enrolled collectively at the 17 colleges and universities represented.
More information about the event can be found via Twitter hashtag #NCvoter16. More resources for campus voter engagement can be found on the CEEP-NC webpage. For general voter info visit Democracy NC’s www.ncvoter.org.
Sponsoring partners included the Andrew Goodman Foundation, Campus Vote Project, the Campus Election Engagement Project, Democracy NC, Elon University’s Kernodle Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement, NC PIRG, and NC Campus Compact.