MEASURE YOUR IMPACT & BUILD FOR THE FUTURE
You’re building not just for the current election, but also for future ones. The more you document your efforts and keep your momentum going, the more effective you’ll be for the next election cycle.
Have your senior administrators sign up for the National Study of 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. Here are some representative reports. 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 vote.org.
- 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.
- Once your school joins the NSLVE study, and gets reports on your registration and voting rates, you can then submit them to the All In Challenge where your school can get recognition for improving student turnout.
- If possible, share your data with your CEEP contact. You’re not obligated to do this, 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 the schools we work with and get the support to continue expanding our efforts. 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.
Instead of disbanding your nonpartisan election engagement coalition post-election, continue planning ways to engage your students more deeply in elections and broader public issues.
- Use our Campus Electoral Engagement Assessment tool to measure your progress since the last time you filled it out.
- Help students discuss the issues they care about and follow decisions made by elected leaders.
- Keep working on institutional approaches where the extra lead time will really help. Examples include:
- Work with orientation directors to register students at first-year orientation and with university registrars to coordinate voter registration with fall course registration.
- Secure on-campus voting stations, as many of our schools have been doing.
- Develop greater faculty involvement, helping faculty integrate electoral participation with coursework.
- Work to support nonpartisan campus electoral activities with administrative and student government funds.
- Expand ways that administrators and staff, such as student activity directors, can help engage students in the democratic process.
- Develop continued ways to meet new ID and voter registration rules, which often require schools to actively navigate their students through complex rules or even provide them specific kinds of identification.
- Foster community outreach such as Virginia Commonwealth University’s voter registration partnership with the nearby Mosby Court public housing project.
- Work with the advisors and editors of campus newspapers to develop print and online approaches to cover critical public issues
- Create a climate where students learn ways to engage our country’s most challenging issues, while modeling respect across differing views.