The 26th Amendment was the fastest to be ratified in U.S. history yet young people consistently comprise the smallest active voting bloc. At institutions such as the University of Houston-Downtown (Texas) engaging students in politics including voter registration and turnout can be especially difficult because although it is a four-year, public university it is considered a commuter institution, with more than 14,000 primarily undergraduate students and one of the most ethnically diverse institutions in the nation. UHD is recognized as a federally qualified Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) which have historically low voting populations. Student leaders from UHD’s student government association have decided to take things into their own hands through a civic engagement initiative called “Walk 2 Vote.”
While there are hundreds of organizations that focus on increasing youth voting turnout and engagement, Walk 2 Vote is one of the only programs created, organized and led by students. UHD students began the Walk to Vote initiative in 2012 and have continued it annually. In 2012, a record 70% of UHD students were registered to vote, and according to the latest results from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), 71.5% of those students actually voted and the overall voting rate of UHD students was 50%. Data from 2014, a non-presidential year, still demonstrates a robust registration rate of 65%. Data indicate a possible correlation between Walk 2 Vote and the significantly unexpectedly high voter registration and turnout at UHD.
The Walk 2 Vote movement consists of three phases which are 1) foundation, 2) creation, and 3) celebration.
The main objective of the foundation phase is to set registration goals, organize a planning committee, create timelines and host voter deputy trainings (if required by state law).
The creation phase consists of implementation of marketing campaigns, voter information sharing (e.g., public deliberations, debates, issue forum), and voter registration campaigns.
The celebration phase consists of the actual Walk 2 Vote event that features dancers, musical performances, and national keynote speakers. From there, we “walk 2 Vote” en masse to nearby poll during early voting. The actual Walk 2 Vote event can vary based on state and local voting laws, polling availability, etc.
In our recorded webinar we shared the key components and philosophies that are important to successfully empower students to become civically engaged. We also shared details of the Walk 2 Vote model including resource packets, contests, funding leads and marketing resources, opportunities to highlight your campuses achievements and connections to organizations that will support your efforts.
Voting is a right and a privilege that should be exercised to all eligible voters. It is through voting for knowledgeable and committed officials that we can all move the nation along the correct path in ensuring peace and equity for all its citizens, and interactions with the world. Many Americans, especially minority and youth, are ill-informed about issues and have little to no desire to vote. It is through gaining knowledge, deliberating upon the issues, and exercising the right to vote that people gain a voice in the trajectory of the country. Once people are engaged, they begin to take a deeper interest in the problems that plague the nation and consider solutions.
Thanks for joining us on Thursday July 28th for this webinar featuring Walk2Vote Co-Founder John Locke, and follow Walk 2 Vote on social media:
The Recorded Webinar can be accessed HERE.