COVID-19 Student Voting Initiative

Letter to Protect the Rights and Safety of Student Voters in the Time of COVID-19

Students physically displaced by campus and residence hall closures face significant obstacles to voting in the remaining elections this spring and potentially in the fall. These barriers must be addressed now to protect student voting, including if campuses are closed in November. This initiative encourages students to use their voices to advocate for solutions to protect their vote, and express their opinions on other COVID-19 student impacts, including the ways the initial relief bill fails to address their needs. We ask students, faculty, staff, and campus allies to take action and sign the letter below on Protecting the Rights and Safety of Student Voters to ensure all students can participate in upcoming elections.

CEEP will be submitting the signed letters to key student-led organizations and relevant public officials, which will vary state-by-state. Beyond this letter asking elected officials to protect the vote, we encourage students to join together and speak out on the other issues that have emerged in the wake of the pandemic, from public health choices to whether the stimulus bills do enough to help already economically disadvantaged students suffering from job loss.  We’ve pulled together suggestions for ways students can act, even while in-person engagement is to be deferred.

CEEP’s COVID-19 Resources

Questions to Explore:

  • What are the best ways to protect public health and the vote if the virus is still around in November?
  • What led us to this crisis and what choices should we make going forward? Why have we been less successful than countries like Korea, Norway, or Germany in dealing with it? How should we secure adequate personal protective equipment for health workers and hospitals, and adequate testing capability?
  • How do we assure that testing and treatment for the virus are free, and don’t deter people from getting necessary treatment, including those without health insurance? If a vaccine is developed, how do we assure that it’s accessible to all?
  • The stimulus expands unemployment benefits but what else needs to be done for those, including so many students, who’ve lost their jobs and have no safety net? If students were claimed as tax dependents they don’t get the $1,200 stimulus checks. Should they? What about a proposal in the original House bill to make graduating students eligible for unemployment? What are the best policies on the eviction moratoriums that states and cities have begun to pass?
    • What is in the stimulus bill? What should be?

Student Engagement Approaches:

  • Contact your Federal, state or local elected officials on issues that feel urgent to you and your fellow students. Your voice matters, and it’s important for your elected officials to understand your needs as students.
  • Convene activists and change makers on your campus.  Reach out to student groups you’re connected with. Ask them to sign on to the letter we’ve created, to hold virtual discussions with your fellow students, and to contribute any other ideas about what should be done to address key COVID-19 related issues.
  • Talk to your friends.  Politics can be loaded when people are under stress. Meet people where they are at.  Understand and validate their concerns. If your enthusiasm aligns…
    • Call and Text. It’s been proven, time and time again that peer-to-peer encouragement works.  Imagine the impact if you remind 20 friends to register to vote, provide them with CEEP’s nonpartisan candidate guides, and then send reminders to vote — and they each send the guides and reminders to 10 of their friends. It’s important to provide folks with nonpartisan, unbiased sources and share why voting matters to you.
  • Encourage real-time conversations with your professors & classmates on COVID-19 and electoral engagement.
    • Ask your professors to talk about the relevant issues in their classes, using CEEP’s resource on how faculty in different disciplines can respond.
    • How does this unprecedented challenge tie into your particular discipline of study, and if so, are there opportunities to protect the democratic process and elections amidst this pandemic? Are there other opportunities for civic engagement?
  • Express yourself.
    • Storytelling matters. People want a source of connection and motivation to act that we don’t always get that from the news. Try to be personal and provide anecdotes that others can relate to. This will help ground the issues you care about and be more likely to inspire people to act.
  • Social media.  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok. Social media lets you share important voter information and reach those who aren’t particularly involved. Build off your favorite platforms to engage your social media community.
    • Influencers help the cause. We all know the game, the more followers, the better the reach. Encourage prominent influencers on your campus to promote your cause and plug them into your campuses’ student voting & GOTV efforts.
    • Tag, you’re it.  If you are launching an initiative or campaign on your campus, be sure to tag every decision-maker and politician in your area on Twitter.  This often gets their attention, especially if it gets retweeted.
    • #Engageathome // #Voteathome – Use this hashtag on any student electoral engagement social media content you are posting.
  • Pledge to vote.
    • Get your friends to register vote, despite the obstacles.  If they aren’t registered, or need to update their registrations, they can do so on CEEP’s platform.
  • Build community.
    • Organize a live digital town hall on key issues, like protecting the vote, sponsored by your school or campus groups. These forums not only foster community, but are also an opportunity to hear from guest speakers, like a representative of your Secretary of State’s office.