Young People Must Be Secured their Right to Vote in 2020
August 27, 2020
About New Era
New Era is the leading voice for young people in Colorado politics and one of the most effective youth civic engagement organizations in the country. New Era Colorado is a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization working to reinvent politics for young people, mobilizing and empowering a new generation to participate in our democracy to make Colorado a better place for everyone. Since our founding in 2006, we’ve registered over 200,000 young people to vote and turned our registrants out at some of the highest rates amongst voter registration drives in the country. We’ve also won at the legislature: gaining critical protections for student loan borrowers, voter preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and guaranteed campus voter service centers and dropboxes. New Era alumni now serve in elected office and key positions of power across the state.
Demands for Colleges and Universities
The 2020 election will have major implications for the future of our country. As young people, we will inherit the future challenges on the line this election, including how we rebuild after COVID-19. We deserve the right to vote and make our voices heard—if young people are not secured their right to vote, our democracy will not be truly representative of the people. Colleges and universities have a duty to educate young people so that they may thrive in their futures: one important piece of future thriving is civic engagement. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all higher education institutions to protect democracy for their students and expand access to civic engagement in 2020 and beyond. Commitment to civic engagement and election-related communication is even more essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the digital information landscape is strife with disinformation—especially disinformation intentionally targeted to young people. Education institutions must ensure young people have access to accurate and trusted information regarding this November’s election.
We have been securing the right to vote for young people since our founding in 2006, and we’ve learned critical lessons about the unique barriers young people face in voting, and we have learned how to effectively address those barriers through our full-scale civic engagement program. With this knowledge, expertise, and experience, we request colleges and universities to secure the right to vote for their students in these ways:
- Provide voter registration services for all students by providing voter registration forms and access to online voter registration portals.
- Communicate with students about their rights as a voter, including local election access laws and ID/eligibility requirements.
- Coordinate with county clerks to make sure campus Voter Service and Polling Centers (VSPCs) and dropboxes are properly advertised and available to students.
- Communicate with students about early voting, deadlines for mailing in ballots, VSPC and dropbox locations, election access laws such as same-day registration, and Election Day options for voting.
- Designate a staff member within the college and/or university to coordinate across departments to execute the aforementioned plans and communicate proactively and regularly with New Era.
Working with New Era Colorado
We already work with 23 colleges and universities in 13 counties across Colorado to ensure the above demands are implemented on their campuses. To continue this partnership, we have the following priorities to ensure young people can exercise their constitutional rights in November and beyond:
- New Era must continue to have full access to college campuses to run our voter registration program. This means we are able to table on campus to conduct voter registration. As of August, New Era organizers will be able to opt-into field work on college campuses. We are following CDC guidelines and medical guidance, providing our organizers with masks, gloves, face shields, plexiglass, disposable pens, and disinfectant to ensure their safety and the safety of the public. Our safety protocols are aligned with the protocols required of petition gatherers by the Secretary of State’s office. We request full access to campus, especially tabling, so that we can interact with students and share critical information about the election in a safe manner. We also work with professors to register their classes and answer any questions about the voter registration process to students—either virtually or in person. If in person options are not available, we have recordings of virtual voter registration workshops that should be emailed to students.
- New Era must run a full Get Out the Vote (GOTV) program, providing students information about the logistics of voting. We provide critical information during GOTV to ensure they have all the information they need to cast their ballot safely from home. It’s critical we have access to many classrooms before October 26 so some voters can still register online and receive a mail-ballot. We will also need to explain the curbside ballot pickup option after October 26, which is the safest way voters can access a Voter Service Center.
- Colleges and universities must proactively communicate with their students about voter registration, voting options, and key election dates. New Era will support colleges and universities drafting these communications to their students about important election access information. Proactive communication is even more important during the current pandemic, where disinformation is rampant and intentionally targeted at young voters. We often work with campuses to write emails that go out to every student with instructions on how to update their voter registration, register for the first time, and/or register to vote with a dorm address. We help colleges and universities share critical information with their students, including know their rights to vote in Colorado. During GOTV, we work with higher education institutions to ensure students know that voter service centers are opening, but how to cast a ballot by mail or dropbox and the timeline in which to do that. Many first time voters need to include a photocopy of their ID and we’ll instruct them on how to do this, preventing rejected ballots and needs for cures.
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