Weber State University is joining 709 colleges and universities across the country in an initiative aimed at getting 100% of its students to register to vote this fall.
The initiative, called the ALL IN Democracy Challenge, is a nonpartisan initiative striving to help college campuses increase “nonpartisan democratic engagement” among students, according to a university press release.
WSU’s Political Engagement Coalition will also host “Weber State Votes,” an initiative to achieve 100% voter participation for all its students, in conjunction with the national movement. The university reported 29,644 students during its fall 2019 headcount.
WSU launched the Political Engagement Coalition website as a resource for students to find info on how to register to vote, confirm their voter registration, determine how and where to vote, and understand what is on their ballot. Students also can visit allintovote.org for additional resources starting in August.
A university spokesperson said Election Day won’t be a campus holiday, as some students at colleges across the country have advocated for, although professors can always choose to cancel their classes that day.
WSU political science professor Leah Murray, who’s involved in the campaign, thinks it’s not as important to have a campus holiday since a lot of Utah’s votes come by mail (59.6% of WSU students voted by mail in 2018, per the PEC website).
In this case, it’s sometimes more important to tell people where to find postage stamps or get their information on voter rolls so they have a ballot sent to them, she said.
COVID-19 restrictions are severely limiting the amount of peer-to-peer outreach the university can do regarding voting, but the outreach plans are still thorough.
Normally, voter registration drives involve sitting at tables, asking people to register, handing them a paper, getting them to fill it out and bringing that paper to the Weber County Elections office, according to the PEC website.
The efforts will now go through WSU’s digital learning platform, Canvas.
For example, students at WSU orientation will be shown a slideshow presentation explaining why voting matters and what elections are on tap this November.
Additionally, there will be things like voter hours (Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.) when someone will be online to answer questions students might have about the voting process, Murray said.
Since more students are expected to be taking online or virtual classes this fall, Murray hopes class professors will let people speak briefly on Zoom calls to push voter registration.
Specific Canvas courses (called modules) that are being worked on right now help explain voter history in the United States, how to register to vote and why/how registration laws have been used to disenfranchise people.
According to WSU’s PEC website, voter turnout in the age 18-21 demographic was 31.7% in 2018.
There’s a ballot box between the campus library and Shepherd Union building.
In June, the Big Sky Conference, which Weber State’s athletic programs compete under, announced that it won’t allow practices or contests for its 11 member schools on Election Day.
The University of Utah, Southern Utah and Dixie State are also participating in the challenge, while Brigham Young University, Utah State and Utah Valley University are not.