Vote, Vote, Vote!

By Alina Hachigian

If you haven’t been living under a big rock, then you know that 2020 is an election year, and we’re just a couple of weeks away from the big day. Call it quarantine or call it the increased civic engagement our generation desperately needs, but people are more ready and excited than ever to vote this November. From pledging to vote, to text banking, to voter education, hear all about what students on campus are doing to increase voter awareness and why it’s so important to vote, vote, vote!

Voter Registration Deadlines

Since it’s October, voter registration deadlines are starting to roll around. If you’re otherwise eligible to vote and simply have not registered, make sure that the simple and fast approaching deadline isn’t what is stopping you! The Harvard Votes Challenge has a straightforward way to register. If you think you’ve registered but just aren’t sure, this is a great place to check.

Pledge to Vote

While voter turnout on Harvard’s campus has been lackluster in the past, student groups, individuals, and athletic teams are committed to making sure that isn’t the case this year! Kevin L. Ballen ’22 from the Harvard Votes Challenge said that “young people vote at the lowest rates across the country, even on our campus. Only 48.6% of students turned out to vote at Harvard in 2018. We go to this institution that prides itself on being a civic leader, but we’re not turning out the ballot box and we have to change that.” Over half of Harvard’s athletic teams and many more student groups have partnered with the Harvard Votes Challenge to achieve a 100 percent voter turnout this year. If you haven’t already, you can individually pledge to vote here, too!

Voter Awareness and Education

In addition to the Institute of Politics’s many voter education initiatives, cultural organizations across campus have stepped up to make sure they’re involved in discussions of voting’s importance. Earlier this semester, over 25 affinity organizations including the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association, Harvard Hillel, and the Harvard Caribbean Club hosted “Interconnections & Elections: A Cross-Cultural Voting Kickoff" to encourage civic participation among people of various cultural backgrounds. The event featured a panel discussion with leaders in protecting voting rights among communities of color, as well as student conversations. Trisha N. Prabhu ’22 — the President of Harvard South Asian Americans in Public Service, the student group that organized the event — says they were inspired to put the event together because their goal is to create opportunities for public service, and voting is a perfect way to do that.

“When we vote, we say that democracy matters, we say that our voices matter, and we help shape the world we live in. We want to speak to the fact that there are huge inequities across groups when it comes to voting and have a serious conversation about how communities of color have been barred from voting both historically and today,” Prabhu said. “We wanted to acknowledge those realities and explore why given that, it’s so important that communities vote.”

“In just a couple years, we’ll no longer be students,” she added. “It’s important for our generation to vote because it demonstrates that we can step up and take action on important issues. There’s so many circumstances we can’t control, especially this year, but have to take action on what we can.”

Other Resources

Of course, there are obstacles to voting, especially during a pandemic. But thankfully, these aren’t too difficult to get around. Ballen said there are more people registered on campus than people who turn out, often because of missed deadlines. Harvard Votes challenge is trying to bridge that gap, and you can reach out for access to stamps, envelopes and printing for students who need to fill out forms to register and request absentee ballots. “We often hear people say their vote doesn’t matter, but they’re referring to presidential elections. [They’re] not focusing on local elections with real consequences from school funding to healthcare to criminal justice reform and we have to pay attention to them,” Ballen said.

There’s a lot happening this year, and you don’t want to miss out. Make sure you’re ready and excited to vote in the upcoming election! If you’re eligible, whether you’re on campus or remote, there are plenty of resources available to make sure you are ready to be civically engaged by casting your ballot. Happy voting!

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