The Haas Center for Public Service, Residential Education (ResEd) and nine other Stanford departments have partnered with UVote to encourage voter registration during New Student Orientation (NSO).
Haas Center Executive Director Tom Schnaubelt and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman met with representatives from UVote in late August and decided to bring the program to campus for NSO.
“We are hoping to take advantage of the opportunity and buzz around this year’s election, but we are also hoping to continue doing this every year,” Schnaubelt said.
Student volunteers and professionals from the Haas Center and ResEd run the program. Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of ResEd Deborah Golder said that the partnership between ResEd, the Haas Center and UVote seemed natural.
“The citizenship link feels really logical to us we feel that students have the responsibility to be an informed electorate and an informed citizen of Stanford too,” she said.
Zac Sargeant, assistant director of ResEd, attributed the choice of implementing the program during NSO to taking advantage of the excitement surrounding the arrival of the Class of 2016.
“There’s a lot to be able to tie into NSO where there are big groups of people congregated in specific places,” Sargeant said.
UVote started at Northwestern University’s new student orientation in 2011, where 90 percent of the incoming freshman class registered to vote.
According to Sargeant, one of the great successes of UVote’s efforts at Northwestern was that it became almost “unavoidable” for new freshmen to register to vote. The Stanford program aims create a similar effect by placing voter registration tables in dining halls and other crowded areas around campus.
As of Friday, between 500 and 700 people had registered, including upperclassmen, faculty and staff, according to Schnaubelt.
Stanford’s UVote program does not have a goal for a number or percentage of the student body registered.
“Our goal was not a specific number, but we really just wanted to be a presence this year,” Sargeant said.
UVote is different from other voter registration efforts in that it is directly affiliated with the University and allows students to register in almost any state. UVote handles all the paperwork and can have an absentee ballot sent to the registrant’s Stanford P.O. Box.
“[UVote] involves way fewer clicks in terms of going from point A to point B to point C—with UVote it’s all right there,” Schnaubelt said.
Golder noted that UVote and voter registration were only the first steps in ensuring that Stanford students fully participate in the political process.
“To me, there are three steps in this process,” Golder said. “One, to be sure that you are registered. Two, to make sure you are informed—and three, to actually get out and vote.”
Golder held that after UVote leaves campus, student groups should take the role of ensuring that students are active political participants. Groups like the Stanford Democrats, Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) and Stanford in Government have already joined in voter registration and education efforts.
ResEd and the Haas Center both emphasized that UVote is a nonpartisan effort with the goal of simply mobilizing all voters, not voters for a specific party.
“UVote does a good job of making sure it is nonpartisan and that it keeps to the facts of just making sure that you are registered—and [getting] to the polls,” Buzay said.