37 (& growing) Things You Can Still Do to Engage Students in the Election
Here’s a quick list of things schools can still do to get students engaged in the election, pulled together from all
the good ideas that different campuses have come up with. We’ve broken them down by category, though some
overlap. We hope these ideas will help you think of last minute ways to engage students in voter education,
voter protection, actually getting out the vote and finding ways to stay involved after the election.
The key in these final weeks is to follow through on good ideas already begun and pick new ideas that will
complement other activities. Most new ideas will need to be low-cost, simple and creative to pull off in this
short time frame, but any of these could still make a significant difference.
We hope you’ll scan these ideas and pick some things to do that you aren’t already doing.
Click here for Each Section:
Education on Issues, Candidates and the Election
Get Out The Vote
Post Election Activities
1. Guerrilla theater. Univ of Colorado Denver ordered Obama/McCain masks and gigantic boxing gloves
and used them to hold mock fights and breakdancing contests all over campus. If you want to order the
masks they're $19.95 each and are orderable here. And this is where you get the two pairs of $9.99 gigantic
blow up boxing gloves. You can order either with two-day or next-day shipping.
The possibilities with such approaches are limited only by your imagination: Hold amusing or serious skits
about voting, publicizing issues debates, and gather crowds in visible places to interest students who might
ignore tables or signs. Use these events to hand out voter pledges and voting information. Be creative and try
to entertain as you engage and educate.
2. Halloween activities: Trick or Vote canvassing on or around Halloween. Materials available online so
you don’t need to start from scratch. Take advantage of parties happening on that day to spread your voter
protection, voter education and get out the vote messages.
Hand out candy messages: Get some bags of candy and stick or tie small message to them (“vote on nov 4”,
“bring ID to the polls”, “what time are you voting?”, “how are you getting to the polls?”, “what kind of id to I
need? www.866ourvote.org,” “election party, xxx dorm,” etc.) Then put on a costume (or not) and hand them
out on campus (having more information available can be helpful but people are much more likely to take a
piece of candy than a flyer)
3. Absentee Ballot parties. Westfield State in Massachusetts, held an absentee ballot party, where students
could get their necessary ID info photocopied and have snacks while privately casting their ballots, addressing
them, and stacking them to be mailed. Other schools have given students stamps to mail back their ballots, so
they won’t have to hunt them down. And of course, election night parties let students come together to watch
the returns come in.
4. Display posters, banners, signs and sandwich boards (as permitted) around campus with various messages
to encourage voting, remind of absentee ballot request deadlines, educate about what to bring the poll. Use
existing templates, order ready-made posters like those created by Common Cause or create your own. Hand
out iVote stickers which can go on everything from book covers to water bottles to bicycles.
5. Provide chalk for students to chalk campus walkways with various messages and images to encourage
voting, share websites and announce activities.
6. Write op-eds and letters to editors for newspapers about the importance of each person’s vote, campus
initiatives to engage students and such. Encourage students to carve out the time both to make educated
choices on issues and candidates and to figure out how and when they’ll fit voting into their lives. Remind
people to exercise their right to vote and be prepared in case the lines are long.
7. Get students to sign a “Pledge to Vote” - create a generic card to sign or send them to various online
pledges (e.g., Rock the Vote, iLike to Vote) and pledges to vote for candidates and issues of folks’ choice. If
you create a pledge card, you could also include on it places for people to make specific commitments to
themselves about WHEN they’ll learn about the issues and candidates and decide how to vote, HOW they’ll
cast their ballot (at their polling place, at home via absentee ballot or by early voting), WHAT TIME they’ll
got to the polls (or fill out their ballot), WHAT they’ll take with them to vote (e.g., identification, sample
ballot, directions to polling place, friends), OTHER ARRANGEMENTS they’ll need to make to fit voting
into their schedule and actually get to the polls, etc.
Encourage Faculty to distribute pledge cards in class and allow class time for students to make a plan and
research the issues and candidates.
8. Use social networking sites to carry various messages. Use existing groups and causes and encourage
students to post onto their sites so all their friends will vote.
9. Consider placing ads these last two weeks on Facebook, targeting students on your campus. Perhaps do
a new ad each day with a slightly different message, including a countdown to remaining deadlines and to
Election Day. After the election, continue with “what’s next”-type messages to keep people involved.
10. Set up mock polling places, perhaps in the student union, with sample ballots for students to practice
voting and consider how they’ll vote. University of St. Francis (IN) conducted mock elections as part of
their registration drives. Such dry runs now for new voters can help people assure they bring what they’ll
need with them if they vote at the polls and encourage them to learn about issues and candidates before they
enter the polling booth on November 4th. Have written information available to help students both with the
mechanics and the issues they’ll need to know about to vote. You can also have stamps available so you can
encourage absentee voters who complete their real ballots to send them in immediately. And set up
computers with lists of informational sites like League of Women Voters, Votesmart.org, NY Times Election
Guide, On The Issues, Public Agenda & Vote Gopher.com for issues and candidates and The Brennan Center
for Justice, 1-866-Our-Vote, & Go Vote for voter protection issues and local rules.
11. Publicize polling locations near campus – including directions, hours and transportation options.
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12. It’s not too late to ask faculty to give students extra credit for volunteering in the campaigns of their
choice and reporting back through journals, papers or classroom presentations. If students get involved
now, they’re more likely to be involved in future campaigns. Many of the ideas in this list parallel campaign
activities and faculty and staff can encourage students to participate directly, in ways that give them a chance
to give voice to their own particular convictions.
13. Volunteering at the polls or for initiative and campaigns on Election Day is a great way to be a bigger
part of the process than simply casting your own vote. Students can knock on doors, make calls, or volunteer
as poll-watchers with the candidates of their choice—playing a critical role in getting out the vote for the
campaigns they support.
14. Publish a list with campaign contact information (for all parties, candidates and initiatives) in the
school newspaper and encourage students to volunteer in these ongoing efforts. Include also campus-
initiated volunteer opportunities (like College Republicans or College Democrats or some listed here) that are
in place so people can plug in easily.
15. Get students to volunteer with local voter protection efforts through existing the existing campaigns . Law
students can play a particular role volunteering with the non-partisan Election Protection coalition.
16. Students can also sign up (and even get paid) as non-partisan poll-workers
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EDUCATION ON ISSUES, CANDIDATES and THE ELECTION
17. Display information on candidate platforms in the student union, blown up large enough so it’s visible to
passing students. Also information on initiatives, which are likely to be far less high profile and therefore a
source of far more confusion. You can find downloadable information on your state’s initiatives here.
18. Ask your election board or League of Women’s Voters for the official non-partisan voters pamphlets
for the area and place copies in key locations around campus.
19. Hold formal and informal debates and discussion sessions where students can discuss issues and
candidates with other students and help decide how they want to vote. Screen election-related films such as
The Young Candidate or Journeys through the Red, White and Blue or 18 in 08.
20. Post lists of good websites for learning about issues and candidates in libraries, study areas, dorms and
places where students use computers.
21. Create a fun “Election Quiz” for students to take…in class, at lunch, at home. See a sample for Indiana.
22. Create and distribute a sample ballot that includes the regional issues and candidate students may
encounter in your school’s area.
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GET OUT THE VOTE
23. Work with the campus IT department to sent reminder emails, voice-mails and text messages to every
student on campus. Message can include links to resources such as www.govote.org where students can
find out where to vote and what they need to bring, and sites where they can verify registration. Encouraging
students to make a logistical plan for how and when they’ll cast their vote is helpful in addition to a simple
Check too that key campus websites have been updated include links to such useful voter information sites
and include a countdown to Election Day.
Ideally at least one message could go out before deadlines to order an absentee ballot as a reminder for
those cannot get to their polling place or vote early and a second message could be sent on November
3rd to remind all others to vote at the polls.
24. If the prime polling place is off-campus, offer rides to the polls and encourage carpooling and going to
the polls with friends. (Some campuses have rented buses or vans to shuttle students from campus to their
polling place, having worked out liability details.)
25. Ask faculty to let students miss classes, if need be, to vote. This is particularly valuable at community
colleges, where students often have little time between work and school, so can’t afford to stand in long lines.
Virginia’s Liberty University has cancelled all classes on Election Day and scheduled shuttle buses to take
students to the polls. Their 10,500 students’ usual academic routine will be replaced with “an all-day concert
on campus that will morph into an election party when the returns come in.”
26. Parades to early voting sites or polling places. University of Colorado Denver is doing a parade of
student voters to the nearby early voting site. Schools where the sites are further away can do this with
carpools. Early voting is key, because it avoids the problems of jammed schedules or long polling place lines,
plus it gives students a chance to correct any problems.
Then on November 4th, it can be repeated to make voting a community activity and celebrate having so
many people voting …
Plan for entertainment and snacks near the polling place while students wait in line or wait for their friends
to make it through the lines.
27. Ask students to text their friends and send Facebook messages to their friends with voting -reminders
leading up to Election Day and on the day itself. Use online tool to set up texting today for Election day
with all your friends
28. Encourage “Take a Date to the Polls” and “Real Friends don’t let Friends Vote Alone” concepts to
foster support within peer groups (use posters, messages, facebook ads, etc)
29. Organize dorm storming on Election day. Knock on doors and offer rides or company going to the polls to
registered students blowing it off at the last minute. Make “I voted” buttons or stickers to give to people
you find who have voted and invite others to get theirs once they do vote.
30. Phone bank to all registered voters for whom you have phone numbers. If you did a registration drive you
should have these from your own efforts. Otherwise, check with the county election board and purchase
copies of registered voters.
31. Plan Election Night Parties to watch returns in student unions, dormitories, fraternities, sororities and other
places where students gather. Distribute a list of campaign parties around town as well so students can join in
the celebrations in the community as well, particularly with campaigners.
32. Set up RIDEShare tool on Facebook so students can hook up rides and riders to the polls. Kentucky
Campus Compact did this via a discussion board by campus.
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33. Encourage students to check out and verify their registration If there’s a problem this lets them address it
before it’s too late. Make sure they know their rights at the polls and have 866—OUR-VOTE number with
them if there are any problems at the polls.
34. Check state ID rules and let every student know what they need to bring to the polls. If useful, issue
appropriate issue zero balance utility bills or personalized letters from the president to provide ID for
students who’ve registered at dorm addresses.
35. Distribute the election information number 1-866-OUR-VOTE (which connects you to volunteer
lawyers who can answer questions and correct misinformation from poll-workers) and plaster the
campus with the Common Cause election protection posters. Contact Daryn Cambridge
email@example.com for free posters.
Have student volunteers outside the polls with the election information number in case students have
problems. If problems do occur (and with this many new voters and twists and turns of election rules, they
may well), it’s critical that any student whose vote is challenged knows to call this number (1-866-OUR-
VOTE) for how to respond and cast their vote.
36. If you hear of long lines at a particular polling place on Election Day, send volunteers there with coffee and
snacks as well as umbrellas and hand warmers and such to make the wait more comfortable. Create
Hospitality Teams to periodically check area polling places.
37. Educate students about other voter protection issues: straight ticket voting concerns, being unfamiliar
with voting method (paper or machine), challenged registrations, etc
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38. Ask Faculty to incorporate activities after the election to keep students engaged. This is especially important
since a vast majority of voters have no plans to stay engaged after voting. This could include reports from
those who volunteered in election activities as well as pledges and planning to stay involved on issues they
39. Student government and student activities can also convene town hall meetings, where students examine
community needs, define local and national issues and explore on courses of action. These could also draw in
existing student-engagement groups like the PIRGs.
40. Set up forums for students to discuss the “meaning” of the election results in the weeks after the election.
Invite parties and issue groups to table so students can consider ways to stay involved.
41. If your school increased its student turnout from 2004, celebrate publicly. Make sure every student
knows this. Also look at what you did that worked best, and make plans for how to build on it and learn from
the experience of other schools. Campus Compact will be updating their Campus Vote Initiative site,
www.compact.org/vote, to incorporate the great new ideas that people have come up with, so check back with
them, and with your state Campus Compact, but also send any great stories or examples to your state
Compact, so they can pass them on to the national office. And thanks for everything you’ve done.
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