Registering student voters in residence halls
Because students on residential campuses are clustered where they live, registration drives in residence halls are highly effective. Volunteers from student organizations or your campus nonpartisan engagement team knock on students’ residence hall doors and ask them to register to vote. Dorm storms normally take place in the evening, when students are home from classes. Instead of waiting for students to come to you to register, you come to them in a way to make voter registration as easy as possible.
Use the expandable content below to read more or download a PDF of the full Dorm Storms — Registering student voters in residence halls resource here.
Dorm storms can also be a great way to “get-out-thevote” (GOTV). If students are already registered to vote, you distribute nonpartisan candidate information and information about voting, including pledge cards. Closer to election date, you can also do a separate GOTV dorm storm, perhaps integrated with a Halloweenthemed Trick or Vote canvass. Repetition is useful because most students require multiple reminders to show up to the polls. So long as you get the okay from residence hall administrators (if they’re worried about security, the national association that represents residence hall staff, ACUHO-I, has endorsed this process in their newsletters), this is a great way for a group of students to take a couple of hours to register their peers and remind them to vote.
Questions you will want to think through and approaches that will help:
- Contact decision makers in charge of residence halls to plan and get approval. Longer lead time is ideal, but if registration deadlines are fast approaching don’t delay. This will help you plan your next steps, and plan alternative voter registration approaches if they say no. Anticipate any objections and get a clear ok before beginning. Miscommunication can harm future voter registration initiatives.
- Check voting rules for your state. If students living on campus at Ohio public colleges and universities, don’t have an OH driver’s license or federal ID, for instance, they’ll need a letter from their president or chancellor or a zero/balance utility bill to actually vote.
- Plan the time: When are most students be back in their rooms? Are there specific periods the dining hall is open for dinner so students are less likely to be in their dorms? Any major events you want to avoid?
- Some residence halls might want volunteers to be easily identifiable with t-shirts, lanyards, etc, so be prepared to put together a fun or creative logo for your voter registration effort, or just use student government or student organization t-shirts if they exist.
- Announce the drive beforehand so students in the residence halls will be prepared.
- Plan how you’ll get your volunteers. Backwards plan your recruitment goal, and how you will get them to volunteer, whether through tabling, talking to clubs, or reaching out to current members of your student government. Your number of volunteers will determine whether you can do all of the residence halls, or only a couple in an initial test run.
- Canvassing doors can be challenging, so remind volunteers that it’s ok if people say no.
- As with any voter registration efforts, write out a quick script beforehand for volunteers to use. This should include all important information, including a direct ask for the students to register.
- Make sure you have the official address information for the residence hall, because the registration forms will require it.
- Get confirmations from all volunteers the day before. Have all materials ready that they’ll need.
- Arrive early on the day to meet your volunteers. This will allow you to react to any last minute changes in plans, and be organized and ready for students to start showing up.
- Know how you’ll ensure students you registered turn out to vote. Track the info so you can call them later with a reminder. Consider a follow-up canvass reminding them to vote.
- If possible have a “Pledge to Vote” cards where students can fill out their email and cell phone numbers so you can follow up or contact them if they are missing any information on their voter registration form. Even after registering, most students need follow-up reminders leading up to Election Day, and help planning how where they’ll get to their polling location.
- Be prepared for changes. Things fall through, people don’t show up. Be prepared to modify your approaches if need be
- Have fun. Have a competition between your volunteers of who can register the most people, or do something else to engage people.