November 2019 – Drew University is a N.J. Ballot Bowl champion!
The statewide contest, started by N.J. Secretary of State Tahesha Way, is a nonpartisan collegiate voter registration competition held leading up to the midterm elections.
Drew joined Montclair State University and Rutgers University-Newark as conference winners announced by Way in an event held in Brothers College.
Upon receiving the Ballot Bowl trophy, the Drew Student Voter Project’s (DSVP) co-director Ryan Strauss C’21 reflected on the importance of voting.
“A particular adage that I think is very relevant at the moment—and one I’m sure you’ve heard—coming out of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, ‘What type of government have you given us?’ He remarked to her, ‘We’ve given you a republic if you can keep it.'”
“I think in times like this where people are uncertain about the future of our nation and whether or not their voice will be heard, events like this and making sure that students participate is evermore important than it has been,” he added.
Way and Madison Mayor Robert Conley doubled down on this sentiment in remarks to a full crowd of students and faculty.
“Your voice matters,” said Way. “You make a difference. And our democracy only works if all of us actively participate.”
Key to Drew’s Ballot Bowl victory were various DSVP efforts, including tabling events on campus, giving presentations to classes, putting up QR-coded flyers to check registration statuses and hosting Get Out The Vote events throughout the year.
In 2018 alone, nearly 700 Drew students heard presentations made in classrooms, including many first-year DSEM courses.
“We get a lot of really good questions in classrooms and at tabling events about off-term elections because some of the offices on the ballot are not as well known as in larger midterm elections,” said Diana Karamourtopoulos C’21, DSVP’s co-director.
“We also got a lot of questions from first-year students about the registration process for state and local elections because a lot of them are just now eligible to vote for the first time and need some guidance,” said Emma Marie MacAfee C’21, a DSVP volunteer.
What sort of impact have these efforts garnered? The numbers speak for themselves.
According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, 93.3% of eligible Drew students are registered to vote, up from 70.6% in 2014; 53.9% of Drew students voted in 2018, compared to the 39.1% average voting rate of the 1,000-plus colleges tracked; Drew’s overall student voting went from 22.3% in 2014 to 53.9% in 2018, a 141.7% increase.
DSVP registered 52 students in 2018, a number they’re approaching in 2019, according to Alexa Fitzgerald C’21, the group’s data manager. They also helped 43 students mail in their votes.
“Our presentations are really well received and our students do a great job of making the information digestible,” said Tim Carter, DSVP’s faculty advisor and visiting assistant professor of international relations.
“It’s gotten to a point where it’s actually hard to find Drew students who aren’t registered to vote.”
Even with so much already accomplished, the DSVP will continue its work leading up to the 2020 election.
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