MEASURE YOUR IMPACT & BUILD FOR THE FUTURE
You’re building not just for this election, but also for future elections. The more you document your efforts, the more effective you’ll be for the next election cycle.
Have your senior administrators sign up for the National Study of Student Learning, Voting, and Engagement, run out of the Tufts University-based Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, which studies patterns in college student voting, provides campuses with valuable data on student civic/political engagement, and builds a national database for future research on ways to engage students most effectively
Using actual voting data, NSLVE determines how many of your students are registered to vote and how many actually vote. – Learning your turnout rates helps you evaluate whether your campus election engagement efforts are working, so this is one of the keys to creating an effective engagement plan.
- NSLVE provides voting rates by key demographic data, including field of academic study, as well as gender and race/ethnicity. See here for a sample report. This information can inform outreach practices and be used to create partnerships with stakeholders across campus and within the local community.
- NSLVE also breaks down students who vote in-person vs absentee, so you can and make strategic choices about mobilization efforts. For example, if your campus has a large number of students who vote absentee, consider resources that help ease the process such as Long Distance Voter.
- NSLVE protects student information by working with de-identified student data, fully protecting student privacy in line with FERPA. Student names are completely removed from voting records and assigned a random identity number. Check out their FAQ on privacy for more details.
- The study also keeps institutional data confidential. NSLVE makes its institutional report available to a single designated campus contact of the institution’s choosing and only releases the names of participating schools with their permission. That contact then chooses who to share it with, inside and outside the institution.
- NSLVE is also free and participation is easy. A generous grant allows CIRCLE to conduct the research and provide institution-level data at no cost to campuses.
- Sign up is simple: Just complete the authorization form and have it signed by a senior administrator such as the president, chancellor, vice president, dean of the college, or provost. Then have them email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Because this isn’t a survey, there’s no need to compile student lists or records or consult your Institutional Review Board.
Find out if your campus is an NSLVE participant and gain access to your data
- Ask your president’s office if your school is participating or email email@example.com to have the contact person at your school get back to you. If your campus isn’t already participating, you’ll want to encourage them to sign up.
- If they are participating, ask them to show your nonpartisan engagement team the confidential, tailored report for your school, or at least the key voter registration and turnout data.
- If possible, share your data with your CEEP contact. You’re not obligated to do this and we’d rather your school sign up and keep the data private than avoid signing up. But if your CEEP contact can access the data, they’ll be that much more effective in working to help increase electoral participation on your campus.
- This will also help CEEP draw lessons that help us more effectively engage all of the schools we work with, and get the support to further expand our efforts. And if you’re willing to make your data public in general, it can serve as a campus-wide incentive to increase your voter engagement activities.
You can also track your on-campus or near-campus voting rates by precinct participation and through the Rock the Vote and TurboVote tools. Talk with your state CEEP coordinator on how best to do this, but here’s the basic approach:
- Figure out which all-student or student-dominant precincts students vote at, get the numbers from your state election board, and tally the percentage of active voters who showed up at the polls. If possible, compare these numbers to the comparable precincts from four years ago.
- If you registered students through the Rock the Vote or TurboVote tools, use the dashboard they’ll provide to track how many students registered and voted. After a few months, they’ll also provide the percentage of students who voted.
- Forward this information to your state CEEP contact so we can measure our organizational impact and progress across all of our partner campuses.
Write up your notes as a follow up to help your team and others continue the work of engagement.
- Who was involved? What’s their contact info and position at the school?
- Which approaches worked best for the culture of your campus, both in terms of getting people excited about the work and in producing concrete results, like numbers of students registered and numbers who turn out at the polls?
- What approaches didn’t work well, or had less impact than you’d hoped?
- Which approaches would you have wanted to do if you’d had more lead-time?
Document your most effective electoral engagement efforts through photos and videos
- Have students, particularly communications and digital media students, create and edit concise videos where they interview those involved in your campus engagement efforts and document their outreach, as the VCU students did. Also have them take photos.
- Post the most inspiring videos and photos on your campus website, and send them to your state CEEP coordinators so we can suggest your approaches to schools in other states, and help them learn from your approaches.
Continue planning ways to deepen your efforts to engage your students in elections and other ways of having their voices heard no matter whoever wins in November. Some great projects to work on between elections include:
- Securing on-campus voting stations, which three of our Virginia schools did after 2013
- Developing greater faculty involvement, giving faculty examples from schools which integrated election work with coursework
- Developing ongoing campus-funded election activities or having student governments contribute to election activities
- Expanding ways that administrators and staff, such as student activity directors, can engage in election-related activities
- Developing ways to meet the new ID and registration rules passed in many states, which often require complex responses from the schools to ensure their students can vote
- Fostering community outreach such as Virginia Commonwealth University’s voter registration partnership with the nearby public housing project
- Working with the advisors and editors of campus newspapers to develop templates for coverage, both in traditional and social media outlets
- Working with university registrars to coordinate voter registration with fall course registration