“Ursinus Votes” Nears End of Semester-Long Registration Efforts
A group of 35 students in the “Ursinus Votes” club has been working throughout the semester to register new voters on campus, logging more than 70 volunteer hours over 40 total days.
The student-led nonpartisan group, which is coordinated by the Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement (UCARE), has staffed registration tables weekly in Olin Plaza, the Schellhase Commons, and first-year residence halls, as well as during various campus events.
In Pennsylvania, Monday, Oct. 24, is the last day to register to vote before the Nov. 8 election. Students who live on campus can use their campus address to register to vote in Collegeville and cast their ballots at the Schellhase Commons on Election Day. The UCARE website offers resources for students interested in using their home address to register instead.
“Our student volunteers have gone above and beyond in getting the word out about nonpartisan voter registration and education on campus,” said Ang Upright, assistant director of UCARE. “Research shows that more students register when they hear about it from other students, and our volunteers have proven that. Each volunteer brings unique strengths and passions to this collaborative effort. In addition to being a proud staff member, I’m even prouder as an Ursinus alum who gets to witness current students advocate for democracy and voter access.”
Student engagement has been steadily on the rise on campus. Nearly 81% of registered Ursinus students voted in the 2020 general election, as compared to a rate of 66% at colleges and universities nationwide, according to a report by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, an initiative of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education. That is an on-campus participation rate that is up more than 70% from 2014 and more than 40% from 2018.
Corrine Hofmann ’24 was one of those voters in 2020. A politics major with minors in history and international relations, Hofmann has been a member of “Ursinus Votes” since it was founded two years ago, and she has been an active part of the group’s tabling events this semester.
“At the table, we have nonpartisan resources including QR codes to check registration status, [information on] how to sign up to vote, and [details on] who is running this year for midterm elections,” said Hofmann.
“It is important to me to be involved in registering people to vote because it is crucial to spread awareness of how important your vote is and how it can be empowering to make such a decision by yourself. This year is especially important because many local offices are up for grabs in this election and these decisions will decide and directly impact our community and campus.”
Dominic Minicozzi ’24, a media and communications studies major with minors in Spanish and theater, was another first-time voter in 2020.
“When I was a freshman, I had no idea how to register to vote and, because of this, I nearly missed the 2020 presidential election. If it weren’t for my mom giving me a phone call and helping me register, I probably wouldn’t have been able to fulfill my civic duty,” said Minicozzi. “It’s important for me to get involved in helping students register to vote because I remember being in that same situation where I had no idea how the process worked and without the help of others, I would have been unable to exercise a right that people sacrificed their lives for me to have.”
This is Minicozzi’s first semester helping with voter registration, and he noted that all volunteers are trained on voting procedures so they can answer questions, “especially from students who don’t live near campus and need to mail in a ballot or want to vote from Ursinus for our local elections … It’s our responsibility as citizens of the United States of America to participate in elections of any magnitude.”
Nicholas Francois ’25, an applied economics major with a Spanish minor, got involved with “Ursinus Votes” because he wanted to “inspire students to become registered voters and engaged citizens in order to make a difference on the issues that matter. Since most of us enjoy U.S. citizenship, we have the ability to influence local government decisions. Many students on campus don’t know how to register to vote, so being able to relate to them as another student helped me spark their interest in becoming more involved.”
Like Hofmann and Minicozzi, he first registered to vote as a result of on-campus outreach efforts. “Because I didn’t know how to register to vote, at first, I had no interest in voter-related activities,” he said. “After a voter registration [volunteer] demonstrated the procedure to me, I felt compelled to share it with others.”
Efforts to register new voters are not limited to students. Faculty members also work to “get out the vote” on campus.
Working with Upright, Associate Professor of Politics Annie Karreth, Anaya Demota ’23, and Cole Grubbs ’25, Johannes Karreth, assistant professor of politics and international relations, co-organized a talk and Q&A with Matt Macekura of Montgomery County Voter Services at the start of the semester.
The event helped students find answers about voting registration, detailed how elections are administered, and debunked myths about voting. It was supported by a grant from Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, with help from Associate Professor of Politics Rebeca Evans.
“As a new American, I had to wait for a long time to gain the right to vote and therefore cherish it very much. I’d love to pass my excitement about voting on to my students,” said Johannes Karreth.
“As a political scientist, I know that research tells us that one of the most important factors to get young voters to the polls is to help them over logistical hurdles around voter registration. Once students get registered and vote once, voting becomes a habit. Against what some skeptics might say, our students’ generation is highly informed and politically engaged; Sometimes it’s just harder for students not living with their families to get through the registration process. And while voting is only one of many important ways to leave an impact on politics, it can often be a gateway to other forms of political participation.”
“As a local resident, I’ve seen firsthand both how close and how consequential elections are in our region,” he said. “Helping our students have their say is not just important to me, but also vital for democracy.”
Professors of Biology Robert and Ellen Dawley have also been promoting nonpartisan voter registration with their students in multiple ways, such as sharing information on how to register and—inspired by the board game Monopoly—offering a “Get Out of Quiz Free” card to anyone who shows proof of registration. Robert, who is also the co-director of the Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good, works with Upright to host a registration table at all of the center’s lectures.
A voter since 1972, he is deeply committed to America’s democratic form of government. “Democracy is a ‘use it or lose it’ sort of thing,” he said. “I feel compelled to do everything I can to encourage Ursinus students to vote, and to see voting and democracy as an essential part of their lives as free people—a key right that they should use and defend.”
Monday, Oct. 24, will be the final voter registration table hosted by “Ursinus Votes.” Afterward, the group will transition to supporting campus constituents with their plans to vote. “We’ll be tabling about the process of mail-in and absentee voting, which has a deadline of Nov. 1,” said Upright. “We’ll also host fun events throughout Election Day for all those voting in person on campus.”