Election fever is heating up across the United States: presidential election years are a great time to get college students excited about participating and casting their votes, which are often their first. Campus is the perfect setting to get students engaged in the political process.
In the spirit of election season, we have a few recommendations for events and approaches to get students rocking the vote. And what better way to facilitate engagement and important conversations than to bring students together through social events with a political/election focus?
1. Create an election event hub
The Internet is the primary place students go when they have questions, are curious, or just want some more information. Promote political and election-related campus events on your school’s centralized online calendar. Creating a category, like Election 2012, will allow all political events to be tagged and grouped together. Students can filter search results on your calendar to find ways to get involved on campus. Each event description can include information on voter registration deadlines, how to obtain absentee ballots, and the location of local polling places.
2. Connect election-related events with traditional campus events
Does your campus activities board host events that students know to expect and look forward to? Maybe it’s a weekly movie showing, trivia night, or an outside event with food trucks on the quad. Whatever it may be, capitalize on its campus cred and give it an election spin. Show films with a political focus, challenge students on their knowledge of the American political process with a themed trivia night, and bring voter registration booths to the quad. Brand each event with an election-related badge or icon on your school calendar, so students immediately see that this will be more than an ordinary trivia night.
3. Get students together and talking
Engaging in the political process is all about connecting with others, challenging their opinions, and challenging your own opinions. Plan events that bring students together and get them talking about elections. Set up a campus election hashtag on twitter and have students live tweet debates and other election-related events. If you use an events calendar like Localist, students can link their social media accounts, and share events and comments with others.
4. College-ify the voting experience
By “college-ify” we mean making an experience more fun and engaging by giving it a social twist and adding swag, like t-shirts. For the majority of current college students, this will be the first presidential election in which they can vote. This is exciting stuff and a rite of passage! Ante up on red, white and blue swag, and give it out to students who register to vote. When Election Day rolls around, have student groups organize voting trips to the local polling center. Feature these trips on your online calendar, so students can get automated reminders if they mark “I’m Going.”
However you choose to get students engaged in the political process and this year’s elections, be sure to add a social component to encourage students to exchange ideas and make the whole process a lot more fun.