Students Attend Harvard Conference on Campus Voter Participation

February 12, 2019

By Alexis Soucy

Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassadors Hayley Morgan ’20 and Sarah Murphy ’20 spent February 8-10 participating in the annual National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Politics majors Morgan and Murphy joined over 100 ambassadors from 35 colleges, universities, and civic organizations for a jam-packed weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The theme of the conference this year was Activating Campus Voter Participation, and students were challenged to think about how to improve voter participation on their campuses ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

To kick off the conference, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy sat down with U.S. Senator Ed Markey for a conversation on America and the World. Students were then invited to attend the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award Ceremony, where Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, CA and March For Our Lives organizers Edna Chavez, Ryan Deitsch, David Hogg, and Tyah Roberts were honored.

There were several town hall and panel discussions throughout the weekend where speakers shared their experiences with voter registration efforts on campus and in their communities. Many of them also shared stories about overcoming barriers to democracy, from gerrymandering and voter registration laws to a lack of institutional support.

“Each campus had unique internal and external struggles, and seeing their dedication to combating them was empowering,” said Morgan. “Being able to connect with people from all over the country and hearing what inspiring work they’ve been doing in order to promote political participation on campus has been an extremely gratifying experience.”

In a session with Democracy Works, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the voting experience, students played “Votes & Ballots,” a team-wide strategy game for increasing democratic engagement on campus. They used what they learned to develop action plans for better voter registration and turnout efforts on campus not only this year, but next year and beyond. In addition, students were taught how to analyze their school’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) reports to understand their past student voting rates and set goals for the future.

“[At Saint Anselm] we plan to bring organizations like the Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassador Program, the Student Government Association, athletic teams, and other clubs on campus into this process,” Murphy wrote in her blog about the conference. “We hope to organize a coalition of students and administrators to further discuss our goals and plans.”