Students table for National Voter Registration Day in September 2019
Category: COVID-19 Resilience & Response

Title:Simplifying a Civic Duty

Using the student portal to register new voters

The next step was to institutionalize voter-registration efforts, but helping students from 50 states with 50 different voter-registration processes proved complex. The student leaders of GU Votes turned to a national nonprofit, The Andrew Goodman Foundation.

The foundation, also nonpartisan, worked with GU Votes to customize its student portal called My.VoteEverywhere and provided key funding and advising.

“Some of the most innovative and expansive student-voting programming in the country is being created and executed by GU Votes,” says Taryn Dwyer of The Andrew Goodman Foundation.

“Georgetown is the first partner in the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere network to utilize our My.VoteEverywhere portal and customize it to meet the exact needs of their students. This, in addition to their face-to-face outreach, is one of the most well-rounded student-voting initiatives in our program.”

GU Votes eventually persuaded Georgetown to incorporate their digital voter-registration portal into the course registration site used by students. “The university’s response was overwhelmingly positive,” says Straky. “We got it set up in eight weeks, including testing. Our goal now is 100 percent voter registration, aided by the voter portal’s new availability not just for current students on Main Campus and studying abroad but for graduate students and recent alumni as well.”

Looking ahead to the 2020 election

The students running GU Votes have not slowed down since Georgetown moved to remote learning in March 2020. Instead of “Storm the Dorms” and other campus-based approaches, they are sending state-specific emails to every student with election deadlines and reminders.

“The virtual setting provides an added challenge to engaging students, but we are adapting by expanding our online presence, connecting with other student groups, and working with faculty to coordinate virtual classroom visits,” explains Sarah Bryant (SFS’22), one of the student leaders for GU Votes. “I’m very excited to be a part of Georgetown’s voter engagement efforts in advance of November’s general election because it’s more important than ever to ensure that students’ voices are heard.”

The group wants to empower students by breaking down the barriers to casting a ballot. They anticipate receiving more questions this semester as students navigate their states’ new regulations related to mail-in and early voting in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We hope to meet students where they are, whether that’s D.C. or their permanent residence, by providing relevant, up-to-date guidance on the options they have to vote and communicating that every vote matters,” adds Bryant.

This article was published in the Spring 2020 print issue of Georgetown Magazine and updated for the web in August 2020.