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Swarthmore College Named Voter Friendly Campus

Students get into van to go to polls

On Election Day 2018, the GOTV Committee offered rides to the polls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. More than 200 students took advantage of the "Vote Boat" throughout the day.

As a result of increased planning and action around student voter engagement, Swarthmore has been designated a “Voter Friendly Campus.” The initiative, led by national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, held participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encouraged their students to register and vote in the 2018 elections and in the coming years. The institutions designated Voter Friendly Campuses represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural, and urban campuses.

The mission of the Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process. Swarthmore was evaluated based on a campus plan addressing how the College would engage student voters in 2018, how we facilitated democratic engagement efforts on our campus, and a final analysis of our efforts. The designation is valid through December 2020.

As part of the effort to be designated a Voter Friendly Campus, Swarthmore established a nonpartisan committee of faculty, staff, and students to develop and execute a get-out-the-vote action plan. Leading up to Election Day and on Nov. 6, 2018, the committee organized weekly registration drives, planned a public event featuring a panel discussion on congressional elections, and initiated a comprehensive communications plan to campus involving the College’s senior leadership.

"We should make it as easy as possible to participate in our democracy," says Committee Chair Emily Weisgrau, "and being designated a Voter Friendly Campus is a welcome indication that we are on the right track.”

All of these efforts were designed to promote civic participation culminating in a series of daylong Election Day activities, which included a fleet of campus vans and volunteer-driven cars offering rides to the two polling locations that serve students living on Swarthmore’s campus.

As President Valerie Smith has said, "Let us gather students and others in classrooms, dining halls, or wherever they congregate to begin, or continue, those conversations on the lifelong commitment to the democratic process. If we can engage students not only on Election Day, but in ongoing conversations and participatory exercises, we will better serve our democracy."

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