BENEFITING: OHIO CAMPUS COMPACT
EVENT DATE: May 10, 2012
What would it take to get America’s 20 million students engaged in the 2012 election? The Campus Election Engagement Project does exactly that, working with America's colleges and universities to get as many of their students as possible to register, volunteer in campaigns, educate themselves, and turn out at the polls. This nonpartisan and tax-deductible project has a huge multiplier effect for the resources invested, because it works through administrators, faculty and staff whose salaries are already being paid for by their schools, helping them use their key positions to engage their students.
In 2008, we launched the project in 14 states. We engaged over 500 campuses that enrolled nearly three million undergraduates. Working through academic networks that the schools knew and trusted, we compiled and distributed the most effective practices to get their students involved, then followed up by phone to ensure the schools implemented them. This personal outreach yielded powerful results, including addressing the kinds of obstacles to registering and voting that have gotten far worse since 2010. We began by steering Ohio campuses through the state’s complex election rules; by our micro-grants that helped students at the historically black North Carolina A&T register voters in adjacent low-income neighborhoods; and by funding posters on same-day registration for every community college in Minnesota, helping students participate in what turned out to be a 312-vote margin U.S. Senate race.
We’re now running the project again for 2012. No other group is organizing
college administrators, faculty and staff to get students involved in the election, yet unless they are actively engaged through direct conversations, they tend to do little. Their lack of a coordianted effort contributed significantly to the four million-student electoral drop-off in 2010. When we do involve key administrators and staffers, they can play a crucial role in engaging their campuses, implementing powerful engagement approaches that student and outside groups simply lack the access to execute. For example:
• Distributing templates for student IDs that pass the requirements of all the new laws, enabling students to register and vote without needing to purchase a state ID;
• Ensuring that new students get registered at first-year orientation;
• Broadcasting voter registration and election information links via QR codes on the Jumbotron at football games;
• Including links to Rock the Vote’s registration tool in online event ticketing and course registration systems, and having IT departments distribute a new election information Smartphone app
• Collaborating with campus newspaper advisors to help student newspapers distribute nonpartisan voter guides.
• For residential campuses, encouraging “dorm storms,” where Residence Life works with Student Activities and Campus Safety to temporarily relax normal security rules so student groups can register students door to door in the dorms.
We did variants of all of these and more in 2008. And once we engaged key administrators personally, they responded enthusiastically and adopted our suggestions. As in 2008, we’re working through the respected and trusted networks of the prime higher education service learning network Campus Compact. For every additional $9,000-$14,000 we raise, we can help them hire another full-time person to engage 40-50 campuses in another key state, enrolling as many as 400,000 students. We’re collaborating closely with partners like Rock the Vote, the student PIRGS, the League of Women Voters, and pretty much all the national higher education organizations, over 30 of whom circulated our recent document on what schools could begin doing this spring. We’re working with the key election protection groups, who will help our State Compacts steer their schools through all the new rules, and help us provide critical info on potential voting problems, like a North Carolina rule where if students voted “straight ticket” on party lines they have to vote separately for their presidential candidate, or else their presidential votes wouldn’t count. Sixteen states participated enthusiastically in our initial conference calls. As our partners consistently stress, there’s no other project in a comparable position to engage the people who run the campuses, so our outreach will increase the effectiveness of all the other efforts to promote student involvement.
Campus Election Engagement Project emerged from founder Paul Loeb's citizen enggement books, such as Soul of a Citizen, The Impossible Will Take a Little While, and Generation at the Crossroads—books with over 250,000 copies in print, with The Impossible named the #3 political book of 2004 by the American Book Association and the History Channel. The project also emerged from Loeb's lectures on over 400 college campuses and keynotes at education-related conferences—building the networks that helped make our 2008 efforts so effective. Engaging students in the election is important enough that Loeb is investing a year of his time working without pay to help make it happen. We’ll also have roughly $80,000 of other in-kind contributions.
But we still have to fund our core infrastructure—the organizers in states where student votes might well help determine the outcome of presidential our US Senate races whoever they choose to vote for. Hiring these staffers is particularly key given the new voting laws. Pennsylvania, for instance, just passed a law invalidating 85% of student ID’s for identification at the polls because they don’t have expiration stickers. The head of Pennsylvania Compact is eager to come up with solutions for her 67 member campuses and others in the state, but her two other staffers are Americorps-funded, so can’t participate in even the most non-partisan of registration-related projects. Funding an additional staffer for her will be critical so she doesn’t have to do everything on her own.
To that end, we’re seeking to raise $200,000 to equal our 14-state 2008 reach. I’ve raised $107,000 in the project’s first few months from foundations and major donors, with another $15,000-$35,000 likely, but we're beginning to hit the limits of our networks. Donors committed so far include Rockefeller Brothers Fund, George Gund Foundation, Mayerson Foundation, Puffin Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropies, the Riverstyx Foundation, the Wright Education Fund of the Seattle Foundation, and other individuals. I’m hoping that you can join them by making a tax deductible donation, however large or small, and by publicizing this fundraiser however you can. If you or anyone you know is in a position to give $500 or more, please email and we're happy to send a more comprehensive overview, a detailed budget, and other materials describing all we accomplished in 2008 and all that we’re planning for 2012, .
Paul Loeb, founder, Campus Election Engagement Project