ASU student organizations aim to increase voter engagement despite COVID-19

July 14, 2020

For many college students all over the country, the 2020 general election this fall will be one of the first opportunities they have to vote, and yet this age group tends to be notorious for low voter turnouts.

While ASU voting rates tend to be higher than the national average for adults between the ages of 18 and 29, nearly 20% of students here in 2016 were not registered to vote, according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. About 40% of the student body did not vote at all.

This year, organizations like the Undergraduate Student Government and the Andrew Goodman Foundation are working to increase voter engagement on campus. A shared goal of both of these groups is to inform students about the importance of this civic responsibility.

ASU students at the 2019 National Voter Registration Day event at ASU’s Tempe campus

ASU students at the 2019 National Voter Registration Day event at ASU’s Tempe campus.

“Voting is important because there are decisions made every day on some level of government that impact students and their future in some way,” said senior Trey Leveque, the 2019–20 USG Tempe vice president of policy. Leveque helps plan many voter engagement events on campus to make the voting process more accessible to students.

Senior Cyrus Commissariat is the lead fellow for the Andrew Goodman Foundation here at ASU. This foundation aims to increase voter engagement through registering and informing voters, as well as advocating for the institution of voter-friendly policies at the school and state levels.

“Voting is how we tell the government what we’re thinking,” Commissariat said. “Policy touches our lives regardless of what we study.”

In addition to informing students about voting, these groups also aim to provide resources for students to learn more about political involvement and the voting process. One resource Leveque recommended is looking at the websites of the Secretary of State of Arizona. Another website he recommends is the page for the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.

Many organizations on campus such as USG and Changemaker Central also offer resources for students to learn more about voting. Commissariat added that looking at partisan political groups on campus is also one way for students to learn more about voting.

For out-of-state students, Leveque and Commissariat recommended using Turbo Vote to register in their home states. However, Commissariat said that out-of-state students should consider registering to vote here in Arizona.

“A lot of the decisions that impact their lives are made right here,” Commissariat said. He also suggested that all students consider voting by mail.

Every September, the ASU representatives from the Andrew Goodman Foundation host a registration event for National Voter Registration Day. In addition to this, they work with USG to organize multiple events throughout the year.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this year’s events will have to look somewhat different than in the past. For starters, Commissariat said that events will have to move online, with any remaining in-person events being modified to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Commissariat also said that there will be an increased focus on encouraging mail-in voting and ensuring that polling places will be safe for voters. The university itself has also taken steps to help encourage mail-in voting.

“ASU has signed up to pioneer a new national holiday, National Vote Early Day from Oct. 22–24. We will work with USG and other partners to make this day exciting and highlight the power of voting early,” Commissariat said.

For other upcoming events, the Andrew Goodman Foundation will be working closely with USG, Changemaker Central, and a number of other ASU organizations as a part of the new Civic Engagement Coalition.