–For Immediate Release-
DENVER — As the nation’s largest and most diverse group of potential voters, young people will have the opportunity to shape the upcoming election. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents challenges to registering new voters. To that end, the Student PIRGs launched the New Voters Project Wednesday, a nationwide effort to help register and mobilize the youth vote to turn out in November. The kickoff featured a livestreamed panel of student leaders and elected officials, including Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Michigan Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler.
More than 300 student interns and volunteers will join the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project this summer, working in more than 15 states with college campuses, cities and states to make it easier and safer for their peers to vote in November during COVID-19.
“While young people have varying interests, concerns and passions, making our voices heard this November is something we all can agree on,” said Elisa Chang, CALPIRG Students intern at UCLA, “We are excited to work with a variety of student groups that represent our campus.”
The New Voters Project is working with a diverse coalition of campus groups to turn out the vote — from the University of Massachusetts Republicans to the University of North Carolina College Democrats; and from the University of Florida Panhellenic Sorority Conference to the UC Davis Acapella Club. With COVID-19, the efforts will be mostly online and will emphasize safe voting practices, including vote-by-mail. Speakers on last night’s panel — which more than 350 people attended — talked about the importance of voting safely this election.
“In Michigan, we just passed no excuse absentee, now you have the right to say you want an absentee ballot no matter what,” said Wheeler. “That’s a game changer. It’s essential we educate and mobilize voters around vote-by-mail.”
“Vote by mail is what we do — we want to make sure everyone who wants to vote can vote,” said Rosenblum.
COVID-19 poses huge challenges to normal voter registration efforts. With many colleges and universities opting for online learning this fall due to COVID-19, young people have an opportunity to reach their peers in new and creative ways online. The Student PIRGs, Rock the Vote and campus partners around the country partnered to create StudentVote.org, a one-stop online voter registration resource for students to register and learn important information about the election. The website has already registered over 100,000 students.
“At Rutgers University we want to reach every student online by building a buzz through social media like Instagram and TikTok and also reaching them directly through phone and text message,” said Oriana Holmes-Price, NJPIRG State Board Vice Chair. “We know that students are more likely to turn out when another student asks them to, so that’s how we will make sure our voices count.”
Student PIRGs interns and volunteers will organize virtual events for upcoming primaries, work with other campus groups to prepare registration drives when school starts, and call on election officials to make voting safe during the pandemic. Later in the fall, they will organize large virtual trainings, panels and events around National Voter Registration Day, Vote Early Day and other key registration deadlines.
The Student PIRGs New Voters Project is partnering with Democracy Summer, led by Rock the Vote, an effort that aims to register and mobilize 200,000 new voters over the summer.
“Right now, young people are fired up — going to protests and signing petitions. But we need to make sure we make our voices heard on Election Day as well,” said Manny Rin, director of Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project. “In an online world, young people are uniquely set up to organize others. It’s time we show the country that we are America’s largest generation, and we vote!”
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.