Students lead the way on National Voter Registration Day

Student PIRG chapters join 4,000-plus partners in massive voter registration push

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Nationwide – On September 24, 2019, over thirty Student PIRG chapters joined more than 4,000 partners across the country to celebrate National Voter Registration Day. This year, partners include community organizations, businesses, and libraries, but it is on college campuses where young people are taking the lead. Young people make up the largest and most diverse group of potential voters in the country. But youth voice is often unheard because young people don’t vote in enough numbers.

“In 2018, 31% percent of eligible young voters (18-29 years old) cast a ballot, compared to an average of 50% for the entire population of voters,” said Sithara Menon, CALPIRG Chapter Chair at UCLA, “We can choose to let other people make decisions that impact our future, or we can vote and get a future that works for us. And, that’s what we are doing with the Student PIRGs; making our voices heard.”

The goal of this year’s National Voter Registration Day is to increase participation in democracy by registering, educating, and activating students in the campus community. Over thirty Student PIRG chapters held events in Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Illinois  and Washington.

Students look to build on the momentum from the 2018 election. According to a recent study done by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, college-student voting rates in the 2018 midterm elections doubled compared to the 2014 midterms. Young people are turning out to vote in record numbers and students are leading the way. 

Rutgers University saw one of the largest bumps in student turnout in the country which was due in large part to the work on the ground groups did to mobilize students. 

“Our mission is to inspire every single students to make it out to the polls, not only because it’s their civic duty but because they want to. After all, voting is the way we can invest in our future,” says Oriana Holmes-Price, NJPIRG Statewide Board Chair, National Voter Registration Day is the perfect platform to engage the community and bring people together to encourage political participation on campus. 

NJPIRG student chapters in New Jersey partnered with the local groups like League of Women Voters, I’m Down To Vote, and even helped educate and register high school students at 17 local high schools. 

On many campuses, we saw a broad range of organizations coming together with the common goal of registering voters.  “I’m so proud of the work we’ve done at UMASS Boston today,” says Ian Phipps, MASSPIRG Campaign Coordinator, “All parts of the campus came together and formed the UMB Voting Coalition including the College Republicans, College Democrats and the Student Government. We even got the Chancellor of the University to send out an all campus email encouraging participation in the event.”

Young people (ages 18 – 29) is one of the largest and most diverse groups of potential voters in the country, with their own values and beliefs. For many students, the ability to vote is personal.

Kayla Pipkin, a student at the University of North Carolina – Pembroke, got involved with NCPIRG because “UNCP is one of the largest and most diverse campuses in the state. My peers at UNCP need to exercise their right to vote.” NCPIRG partnered with the UNCP Votes Coalition and the UNCP Community and Civic Engagement Center to educate and register voters. “I really love spreading awareness, teaching, and learning from others,” says Pipkin.

Student PIRG campus events hosted several elected officials, university presidents, and campus officials to support the work. In Connecticut, State Representative Gregg Haddad, State Senator Mae Flexer, and Secretary of State Denise Merrill came out to campuses to help students register to vote.  

“We have focused all these years on the youth vote – because the youth vote is the new vote” said Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, “It’s building on something that I think is going to be a steamroller coming at us with this new generation of people who are getting involved, are getting civically engaged, and the first step is registering to vote”.

Looking to build on these results, Student PIRG chapters will keep working to increase voter participation of students by working with student government, administrators, and public officials around the country to ensure young people’s voices are heard. 

Follow our work through social media by searching  #NationalVoterRegistrationDay, #CampusTakeover and by following @StudentPIRGs

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The Student PIRGs voter registration and turnout effort is part of its New Voters Project campaign, one of the largest nonpartisan youth voter mobilization efforts in the country. The Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project has run peer-to-peer student voter mobilization drives to turn out the youth vote on college campuses for more than 30 years. Its philosophy is that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. The New Voters Project does not endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, a political candidate or political party for elected office.

Our Student Leadership:

“I realized that I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines. Instead of picking a side and debating, I’ve come to the realization that the most important thing is for more people to engage in politics, not which party you’re voting for. The way I do that is getting anyone and everyone registered to vote. I am really proud to lead MASSPIRG’s New Voters Project campaign this year for these reasons.”

Ian Phipps, NVP Campaign Coordinator, University of Massachusetts Boston 

Ian was recently quoted in the University of Massachusetts – Boston newspaper talking about the importance of the youth vote.

Here are more testimonials from our student volunteers: