Student leaders unify, adapt to COVID-19 to increase voter turnout across campus

On National Voter Registration Day, student leaders showed what's in store for the student body during the election season

Although challenged by an almost completely remote student body, ASU Undergraduate Student Governments and the Civic Engagement Coalition are finding ways to engage students in the 2020 general election. 

On Tuesday, USGs from all four campuses collaborated to immerse students on National Voter Registration Day, filling the holiday with University-wide events to increase civic engagement within the student body.

Drop-in events stretched throughout the day. USG Tempe hosted a voter registration Q&A session with Tempe Mayor Corey Woods, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. 

USG Downtown ended the day with a virtual gameshow to quiz students on voter registration. 

The CEC, a group of student leaders aiming to ensure voter success on campus, is continuing to work with USG to coordinate watch parties, virtual games and tabling that align with key election dates leading up to Election Day on Nov. 3.

Ayesha Ahsan, a senior studying economics and sociology, said she created the CEC in 2018 to gather leaders from civic engagement and political based organizations that shared the same goal but lacked coordination. 

"I feel like if we were just able to collaborate, it would make all of our lives so much easier," Ahsan said. "It's really just a space for all of us to share what we've been working on and to find points of collaboration." 

During the coalition's first time operating during a general election, the ability to keep in touch with other student leaders is crucial to arranging civic engagement events that are synchronous for all students to attend during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to USG Polytechnic Vice President of Policy Brandon Dixon, each campus' vice president of policy has been closely collaborating this election year. 

"It feels like a very good team," said Dixon, a junior studying management and business. "Even starting in the summer we were already on top of everything, and that was really cool to me."

This year, Ahsan has been trying to view an almost entirely virtual environment as a blessing to the CEC's civic engagement efforts. 

Ahsan said the CEC is approaching the situation by focusing on eye-catching, University-wide events, which is much easier to arrange through virtual engagement. 

"We're really trying to meet students where they're at, and make our engagements as quick and easy as possible... and really just making sure that we're not adding to students' plates," Ahsan said.

Grabbing students' attention on social media has also been a challenge, USGD Vice President of Policy Renuka Vemuri said. 

"Everyone's saturated with all the content they see on social media regarding everything," Vemuri, a junior medical studies major, said. "I just hope that our efforts aren't going to waste. It's hard to get people to pay attention when you're in a completely virtual environment."

Despite this year's obstacles, the CEC and USG remain determined to amplify voter turnout for the 2020 election by initiating more ideas to increase civic engagement.

In a partnership with the voter education organization The Young Vote, Vemuri and USGD are pushing out a newsletter to the student body to boost civic engagement.

According to Vemuri, the newsletter will be sent out before each important election deadline and includes information about key election dates and USGD general election events. 

"Even if I can't reach students on Taylor Mall, I can at least send the information that I would be giving them on Taylor Mall straight to their inbox, so that they at least have it available to them if they need it," Vemuri said.

Additionally, Dixon said he came up with the idea to create videos that would aid students through important voting affairs and help them understand how to register to vote. 

Students can expect to see videos featuring USG members and other student leaders on each USG Instagram page, as well as the Educational Outreach and Student Services YouTube page. 

"Voting is the most important way that you can get across what it is that's important to you, and reflect that in your own government," Dixon said. "I think that we're providing (students) the opportunity to really find that way to make a difference."


Reach the reporter at ekgalin1@asu.edu and follow @eringalindo29 on Twitter.

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