Eligible voters from ages 18 to 25 have relatively low voter turnout rates compared to the rates of older demographics in the United States in past elections. In response, many campus groups and organizations have taken on the role of promoting student political participation through various events and actions.
As the 2020 presidential election nears, IU-Bloomington is seeing many student-organized voter outreach efforts on campus. In less than two weeks, millions of citizens have casted their vote for the next president, congressional members and local and state representatives. Organizations and student groups, including the Black Student Union, College Democrats and Gamma Eta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., are among the many leaders of these voter outreach efforts.
The Black Student Union has recently wrapped up their two-month initiative, Let’s Get Political, to encourage political participation and literacy, especially among Black students at IU. Tateana Cutter, BSU political action chair, mentioned the organization’s action to mobilize student voters.
“We first began having mass meetings about the forms of protest and how voting is a form of it,” Cutter said. “The last event we had was a panel titled 'Race to the Polls' where the Bloomington City Clerk, Monroe County Clerk, Democratic Party Chair of Bloomington and Republican Party Chair of Bloomington discussed various election issues in Monroe County.”
As a result, BSU has seen more students interested in elections and civic engagement. Although COVID-19 restrictions have presented challenges, they've seen a greater turnout in their large meetings over Zoom, Cutter said.
“BSU’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Black students on campus,” Cutter said. “To fulfill this mission and to help all constituents, we try to inform them on political and social issues, which is not possible without education. We promote political participation to ensure all voices are heard and represented.”
Ian Nowlin, director of voter registration at College Democrats at IU, has personally seen the effect of their organization’s endeavors.
“From September 7 to October 5 we were tabling on campus at multiple locations, including Forest Residence Hall and the Woodburn Clock Tower,” Nowlin said.
As an outcome of College Democrats’ outreach efforts, over 100 students registered to vote, Nowlin said. Tabling and phone banking also gave registered students the opportunity to check their address on the ballot for accuracy.
“The posters around campus made people want to get more involved in College Democrats,” Nowlin said “We’ve also had several people contact us wanting to learn more about our policies and the upcoming election.”
Greek life organizations on campus has also taken an interest in improving student-voter literacy. Christopher Alexander, president of the Gamma Eta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., is encouraged by this turn out.
"Besides student groups, we’ve also seen greek chapters on campus organize voter outreach efforts." Alexander said. “On a national level, Alpha Phi Alpha launched a voter registration program called, A Voteless People is a Hopeless People.”
The chapter organizes at least one voter registration and voter education event every academic year, Alexander said. The event aims to inform people about where to vote, how to fill out absentee ballots and voter registration drives. Additionally, the event provides general information about candidates at both the local and national level.
“I say our efforts are going pretty well,” Alexander said. "The voter registration drives have influenced many students to register to vote."
Correction: A previous version of this story had a name misspelling. The IDS regrets this error.