“Best voting experience ever!” “Great experience, start to finish.” “Every vote day should feel like this!”
The results are in, and the Gephardt Institute’s voter turnout efforts were a smashing success, according to the students who voted on campus on Nov. 8. Almost 950 students and other St. Louis County voters cast their Midterm Election ballots at the Athletic Complex, and hundreds more visited Party at the Polls to celebrate democracy.
The turnout effort was even featured in New York Times photos, in both print and digital articles.
Dozens of Gephardt Institute staff and WashU Votes student volunteers dedicated over 370 hours of work on Nov. 7 and 8 to not only generate excitement about voting, but to ensure the process would be as smooth as possible for student voters.
“Our goal is to make the voting process as clear, accessible, and positive as possible,” said Stephanie Kurtzman, Peter G. Sortino Executive Director of the Gephardt Institute. “We know that the habit of voting reinforces lifelong habits of civic engagement.
“Our students showed us on Election Day that they care about the future of our country and want to make their voices heard through their votes.”
Through months of effort by WashU Votes, the Gephardt Institute’s student-led committee focused on voter engagement, 956 students registered to vote in 49 states this year via TurboVote. Since 2014, 10,387 WashU students have registered through TurboVote. Numerous other students register directly with their state registration process.
WashU Votes’ efforts included Canvass the Campus the week before the election, in which their student volunteers knocked on the doors of about 700 student doors on the South 40 residential area to get out the vote.
And although a new Missouri election law necessitated educating voters about new voter ID requirements, 949 people cast their ballots at the WashU polling place on Nov. 8. That’s compared to 1,156 who voted at the same polling place in the 2020 general election. Complete data on WashU student voting rates will be available in 2023.
Complementing the voter turnout effort was Party at the Polls, a celebration of democracy outside of the Athletic Complex on Election Day. Five student bands played while students enjoyed free pizza and dinner from Balkan Treat Box, played yard games, and took photos at a WashU Votes selfie station. The POLL-er Bear, the WashU Votes mascot, was on hand for fun and selfies.
Voters were encouraged to check into a virtual line, so they could enjoy Party at the Polls before receiving a text notification that it was their turn to vote.
“It was the most enjoyable wait I’ve had! So well organized, and so many fun distractions during the virtual queue,” said one student in their Voter Experience Survey response.
While it was a long day for Gephardt Institute staff and volunteers, strong turnout and happy student voters made the day fun and satisfying.
“I am so proud of the way our students showed up on Election Day and throughout the electoral process,” Kurtzman said. “They showed up to vote not just at our campus polling place, but around St. Louis and through absentee ballots cast throughout the nation. They showed up to listen and learn from one another. They showed up to celebrate the significance of their precious vote. And, they showed up for democracy.”