Boston University Student Government has partnered with TurboVote, an online voter engagement service, in order to encourage students to register for the state and federal elections on Nov. 4.
“The TurboVote platform is an innovative ‘one-stop-shop’ voter engagement service that helps students register to vote, request an absentee ballot and receive election reminder[s] with important election information, dates and deadlines,” said Adrienne Lever, senior director of partnerships at TurboVote, in an email.
The last day to register to vote in Massachusetts is Oct. 15, according to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.
TurboVote, which is run by Democracy Works — a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization “dedicated to the idea that voting should fit the way we live” — is student-friendly and focused on increasing the youth’s voice and involvement in the political process, Lever said.
Fifty BU students have used the organization to register to vote as of Friday, said Corey Pray, director of the department of city affairs in SG.
“We hope to increase that number … to at least 100 to 200 students either registered or asking for absentee ballots, as TurboVote provides both of these services,” Pray said.
Grace Holley, associate director of the department of city affairs in SG, said registering to vote is a necessary step to stay civically engaged.
“TurboVote allows students to sign up online for free through one easy-to-use website that will send them a voting registration form,” said in an email. “The student receives a stamped envelope already addressed to his or her local election office, so he or she simply has to fill out the form and drop the envelope into the mailbox.”
Lever said SG hosted the first TurboVote pilot in 2010, but the program officially began at Harvard University in Fall 2011. However, SG reintroduced TurboVote and launched a campus-wide campaign in Fall 2014.
“TurboVote is [a] great success story for BU,” she said. “It is an example of how BU helps to incubate and support new programs that are then adopted by colleges and universities around the country.”
As midterm-elections are usually a time when voter participation decreases significantly across all age groups, an increase in youth involvement would lead to policy changes in favor of students’ interests, said Donald Green, a professor of political science at Columbia University.
“Voting affects the outcomes of elections, which in turn shape public policy,” he said. “If voting rates among young people were as high as those of senior citizens, we would almost certainly hear more from those running for office about issues that concern young people.”
An increase in young voters could impact the ideological balance in the electorate, Green said.
“A massive increase, which is unrealistic, would have profound effects on the ideological balance in the electorate, as young voters are much more liberal on social issues, e.g., gay marriage, than their older counterparts,” he said.
Pray said civic awareness is important for college students to have their voices represented in the government.
“The decisions made in government affect college students as much as they affect everyone else, but it is certainly important to engage college students by raising their civic awareness,” he said.
Several students at BU said they agree that TurboVote will be a great resource to students.
“Youth voting would help stimulate politicians to innovate the political system in favor of the education of future generations,” said Gianluca Sironi, a junior in the School of Management. “TurboVote is a great resource for college students in that it decreases bureaucratic barriers facilitating students’ ability to show up at the polls on Election Day. With elections right around the corner, this is the time to make yourself heard and cast your vote.”
Michael Gobiel, a junior in the School of Education, said youth voters have the potential to make a difference.
“Students have very specific opinions that other generations don’t have, and if every youth voted, it would certainly have an impact,” he said.
Qian Mei, a freshman in the College of Fine Arts, said it is important to make informed decisions while voting.
“Voting is a duty,” she said. “But there’s always the issue of misrepresentation portrayed by mass media, and I think education plays a big role.”