Nashman Center hosts competition encouraging students to vote

For the first time, officials challenged students to sign up for an online voter information tool in a competition between residence halls.

GW Votes, a nonpartisan task force in the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, launched a voting competition earlier this semester to incentivize students to vote Tuesday by signing up for the online voting system Turbovote. Officials said the competition was part of a push to get more students to the polls ahead of a highly anticipated election.

Jovanni Mahonez, the assistant director for the Nashman Center, said all residence halls were invited to compete to get the most sign-ups on TurboVote, a website that provides election reminders and information about voter registration to students. More than 1,100 students registered for the service, she said.

The Hillsides on the Mount Vernon Campus – which include Clark, Cole, Hensley and Merriweather halls – were grouped together and won the competition with the highest percentage of students who signed up. The students will receive a pizza party as a prize, Mahonez said.

She said the Residence Hall Association and each hall’s resident advisers received an image and URL, which was also posted on OrgSync, to share with residents. The Center for Student Engagement also promoted the competition on social media, Mahonez said.

Sara Clark – the senior partnership associate for Democracy Works, the organization that produces TurboVote – said the tool helps students register to vote and encourages regular voting behavior. She said campuses use “referral codes” with a specific URL, which tracks which students who click on a link posted on campus websites.

She said TurboVote users receive election reminders for every future election, including less publicized events, like a special school board election in a voter’s hometown.

“These days, students are on social media on their phones walking across campus, so that way if the clipboarder doesn’t engage them to sign the form right then as they keep walking, they may see the link in their email or on their Instagram or something,” she said.

Clark said Democracy Works discussed the competition with the University in July, but the organization has worked more than 300 colleges and universities since TurboVote was created in 2012 to get college students registered to vote. She said Democracy Works has also partnered with schools in athletic conferences for conference-wide competitions.

“When many of your students are going to be 18 or 19, they’re going to be first-time voters,” she said. “As a college, you are helping bring students from high school into adulthood. One of the things that you should do as a citizen is vote.”

Naiya Osiyemi, a sophomore and eighth-floor resident adviser in Amsterdam Hall, said she sent out emails weekly to residents about the competition. Osiyemi said the competition helps inform students about what’s on the ballot and when students can vote – showing them that their votes matter.

“Being younger, you really don’t always think about the future and what might impact us later on,” she said. “Just getting people out to vote, making them realize why it’s important and what’s at stake.”

Jili Zhou, a resident director for West Hall, said as an international student he is not eligible to vote, but he promoted the contest to his residents because it allows them to “raise their voices.”

“I don’t really know about the U.S. system, but it seems like it’s important for students to participate in this activity as one of their rights,” Zhou said. “To voice their rights and support this, whatever they believe in, I think that’s important.”

Lia DeGroot and Sarah Roach contributed reporting.

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