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Ice cream and democracy: Ben & Jerry’s registers voters at BU

Sophie Li (CAS ‘23) fills out paperwork at a voter registration event Friday sponsored by ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s at the George Sherman Union. CAROLINE FERNANDEZ/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Ben & Jerry’s served free ice cream and registered people to vote Friday at Boston University’s George Sherman Union.

The ice cream company partnered with PRLab, BU’s student-led public relations agency, and HeadCount, a nonpartisan voter registration organization, to raise awareness about voting rights and encourage voter registration.

Volunteers served free ice cream to more than 100 people. About 30 people — most of them BU students — registered to vote.

Kristin Lunt, account executive at PRLab and senior in the College of Communication, said she felt the event was a success.

“It was a really good turnout,” Lunt said. “We were really happy with the results and getting that ratio.”

Ben & Jerry’s has a history of speaking out on social issues and launched their “Democracy Is In Your Hands” campaign in 2016. The campaign addresses the problem of voter suppression and encourages people to register to vote.

“We want to activate citizens to take action for a more equitable and just society by building a democracy that works for all regardless of race or income,” Ben & Jerry’s website states.

HeadCount sets up registration booths at various events and venues, along with Ben & Jerry’s locations around the country, to help people update their registrations and answer questions about voting.

Ben & Jerry’s Boston is a long-standing client of PRLab. Students in the agency familiarize themselves with Ben & Jerry’s mission and come up with ideas and campaigns to help achieve different initiatives.

“A part of PRLab’s mission this semester is to spread the word about Ben & Jerry’s social mission and to get people to really buy into that,” Lunt said.

Along with voter rights, Ben & Jerry’s has advocated for other social issues in the past, such as racial equality, LGBTQ rights, climate change and the refugee crisis. 

The ice cream makers have released several special flavors highlighting issues they care about, including “Justice ReMix’d” for criminal justice reform and “Pecan Resist” to protest the Trump administration’s stances on LGBTQ, refugee and women’s rights.

Ben & Jerry’s hosts these events because they see voter turnout as essential to democracy, Lunt said.

“Obviously, people get really excited when there’s free ice cream, but the goal of the event was to get people to register to vote,” Lunt said, “because that’s what [democracy] is founded on: people voting and letting their voices be heard.”

Raymond Jiang, a sophomore in the Questrom School of Business who attended the event, said free ice cream is an effective way to raise awareness for an issue such as voting.

“Even if most [attendees] won’t [register],” Jiang said, “this is a good way of getting them interested and maybe thinking about registering or voting in the future.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article included a student quote from someone who thought PRLab had to buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for the event, when the ice cream was actually provided for free since Ben & Jerry’s was directly involved. The current version reflects these changes.

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