Suffolk University is one of America’s best colleges for student voting, according to Washington Monthly. The magazine recently honored institutions, including Suffolk, that are “doing the most to turn students into citizens.”
Criteria for the distinction include participation in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge — in which schools submit voter engagement and education action plans — and data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, which tracks registration and turnout on campus.
“We are so proud that our mobilization efforts to help students take part in the most basic form of democratic participation — the vote — have paid off. We are grateful to have such an active, engaged, and participatory student body and thrilled to promote the vital importance of political engagement,” says Rachael Cobb, professor and chair of the political science & legal studies department.
Student voter engagement efforts are particularly important in 2020, as the pandemic has altered the logistics of voting in Massachusetts and in many students’ home states, including changes in polling locations and new rules for early and mail-in voting.
The Suffolk Votes program is enlisting student leaders as Suffolk Votes Ambassadors (SVAs) to help organize and educate their classmates, says Adam Westbrook, director of Suffolk’s Center for Community Engagement.
The SVAs have held several voter registration events, including at the New Student Orientation session in August, and more are planned for this fall. They are also coordinating “Voter Registration Class Raps,” dropping in to classes virtually to register their fellow students to vote and educate their peers on how to vote safely in the upcoming election.
A Constitution Day panel discussion entitled “Why Did The Constitution Not Grant a Right to Vote?” was held virtually on Sept.17. According to Westbrook, more events will be scheduled throughout September and October to engage with student voters, including during National Voter Education Week, Oct. 5-9.
“Other events include discussions on the shortage of poll workers to administer the election this year, and a discussion on voting rights and voter suppression,” says Westbrook. “We are working with faculty, staff, and our student leaders to meet this moment in history, and make sure that every Suffolk student feels educated and empowered as they cast their vote.”