Hobart and William Smith Colleges have been named the “Top Campus of all Time” by TurboVote, based on the percentage of enrolled students who have signed up to vote over the past two years – 51.8 percent. In this category, HWS beat out Juniata College, Harvard University, Vassar College and the University of Chicago, among others. In 2012, HWS Votes began working with TurboVote, a project of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Democracy Works, to provide students with registration information and opportunities, including absentee ballots.
The Colleges’ numbers were strong, relative to the midterm slump — in which only roughly a third of eligible voters did so. This is attributable to a consistent presence of students tabling in the Scandling Campus Center during meal times, as well as several all-campus emails targeting students and professors (who it was hoped would encourage students).
“While voter interest and turnout was down in a midterm election year, we still posted strong numbers of registrations and absentee ballot requests, compared to other campuses using TurboVote,” explains Jeremy Wattles, assistant director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. “We are pleased to continue this partnership; it provides our students with an easy method to participate in the voting process, as well as offers up-to-date polling and candidate information. I hope that it continues to expand throughout our campus and becomes the norm every year.”
TurboVote streamlines the process of registering to vote using an online client. After completing a series of simple questions, the site generates forms that are both emailed and physically mailed to the voter. Due to the partnership between HWS and TurboVote, the forms come with a postage-paid, pre-addressed envelope – so they simply need to be signed and dropped in the mailbox. For those who are already registered to vote, TurboVote also provides an easy means of requesting a ballot or having election reminders mailed to a home address, email or cell phone.
More than 80,000 students have signed up for TurboVote at more than 200 institutions across the country, according to the organization. Close to 1,100 HWS students have either registered to vote or requested an absentee ballot since 2012.
In addition to TurboVote initiatives, HWS Votes collaborates with other political student groups, including College Republicans, College Democrats, and Americans for an Informed Democracy to host events throughout the year such as debate screenings, roundtable discussions, and visiting politicians. They have also partnered with the Geneva chapter of the League of Women Voters. The organization also provides comprehensive educational material regarding a wide range of political issues and candidates across campus.
Students can register to vote for free at hws.turbovote.org.