Gephardt News WashU Votes

Institute’s voter engagement plan lauded by higher ed voting experts

Click on the image to check out the full 2024 Voter Engagement Action Plan At a Glance.

Some people thing about voting a few times a year, if that. For Civic Engagement Manager Otto Brown, however, not a day goes by that he isn’t thinking about voting issues like voter registration and voter education.  

Since September 2023, Brown and the rest of Gephardt’s Engage Democracy team worked on the 2024 ALL IN Action Plan, which targets specific goals surrounding what nonpartisan voter engagement strategies and outcomes for the WashU community. The Gephardt Institute submits an annual Action Plan on behalf of WashU to the Strengthening American Democracy committee, to be reviewed and scored for implementation. This year’s plan received a perfect score from the reviewers and their highest accolade — the “Highly Established Action Plan” Seal.  

“It was great to receive the Highly Established Action Plan seal and to read the comments from the external reviewers,” said Brown. “This shows the dedication of our campus community to supporting student voter engagement efforts and could not have been done without the invaluable insights and suggestions from our WashU Votes Campus Committee, which includes students, faculty, and staff from across the university.  

“This Action Plan is a continuation of the great work of the Engage Democracy team — past and present — and I look forward to implementing these strategies ahead of November 2024.” 

Although this is the 2024 Action Plan, its inception began with previous action plans, which paved the way for the current plan to take full flight. Past action plans also received high scores from Strengthening American Democracy, which allowed Brown to take that groundwork and build upon it — with a key shift for this year’s plan: working with WashU Votes. 

“We were able to draw on the expertise and folks’ knowledge from across the university, so that we weren’t including ideas that we’d later find to be unfeasible. We were approaching things from the level of partnerships we already have and can build on,” Brown said.  

The goals of the action plan include a university-wide strategy that coordinates across faculty, staff, administrators, and students — especially the WashU Votes committees that respectively focus on undergraduate students, graduate/professional students, and campus coordination. Brown underscored the importance of incorporating the perspectives of people who are engaged and thinking about voting beyond the biannual federal elections in November.  

“Part of the reason we wanted to engage with this group of stakeholders, is if they’re providing the ideas and offering up their own support at the ground level, they’re more likely to go for it,” Brown said. 

As an example, Katharine Pei, director of Student Transitions & Family Programs, suggested that the action plan capitalize on timely campus events like parent and family weekend as it immediately precedes Election Day.  

WashU is already a leader in higher education voter engagement. The student voter turnout rate in 2020 was 70.8 percent, and it consistently exceeds national college/university average voting rates in both presidential and midterm elections. To further increase these numbers, the Action Plan will focus on underrepresented groups in voter turnout, like students of color and graduate and professional students. 

“We want to make sure we have equity in our voting rates across the university, that we are working with communities that are voting at lower rates, and that we are providing information to them through networks that exist. We are very focused on putting equity at the forefront as it is an organizational value here at Gephardt Institute,” said Brown. 

The plan hopes to increase voter turnout to 72 percent this year in order to achieve a longterm goal of a 77.5 percent turnout by 2028. To reflect its mission of engaging all factions of the WashU community, there will be at least one Voter Engagement Hub established at each of the eight academic schools.  

Click here to view the 2024 Voter Engagement Action Plan At a Glance document.

The Gephardt Institute’s voter engagement strategy is part of the Engage Democracy Initiative.  If you would like to make a gift to support voter engagement, please contact Colleen Watermon at If you would like to get involved or have questions, please contact Otto Brown at