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The Quest to Register Students And Encourage Them to Vote


Tuesday, Oct. 23, was a very good day for Danielle Bates.

The Warren County auditor’s office placed a satellite voting both in the Kent Campus Center at Simpson for that one day, after Bates and her peers secured more than 100 signatures on a petition.

Bates, a senior from Kansas City, Mo., is Simpson’s lead ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Vote Everywhere campaign, a national effort to make student voices heard on Election Day.

Registering new voters is time-consuming work. At the beginning of the fall semester, Bates and Simpson’s two other ambassadors – Abby Schulte and Jailyn Seabrooks -- set up their registration table wherever students might see it.

For the most part, Simpson students are engaged politically, but Bates wasn’t sure about some first-year students who are eligible to vote for the first time.

She heard many excuses: Don’t know the candidates well enough…not sure if I’ll take the time…not sure my vote is all that important.

So you can imagine how excited she was to see some of those same students casting their vote on Oct. 23.

“That was really awesome,” she said, “to see that the conversations our team had with them inspired them to vote.”

While Bates and her crew worked for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, junior Levi Lefebure volunteered with the Campus Election Engagement Project. The two groups are similar, and Lefebure and Bates work together, but the Engagement Project focuses specifically on voting, while the Goodman Foundation deals with other issues, like increasing civic engagement.

Lefebure estimates that as many as 200 Simpson students registered to vote at evens held by the Andrew Goodman Foundation and the Campus Election Engagement Project. The one-day satellite booth attracted 122 voters.

“We did well,” he said. “We didn’t have a set goal. Obviously, we wanted as many as we could get.”

A total of 85 percent of Simpson students are registered, he said, and they tend to vote above the national average for their age group.

Lefebure said the goal for the 2018 mid-terms is for 45 percent of the student body to vote. By contrast, 35 percent of Simpson students voted in the 2014 mid-term elections.

He said the work is rewarding, and he particularly enjoys it when a student asks how he or she can learn more about a candidate or find a polling place (Simpson students vote at one of three different precincts on Election Day.)

“I’m someone who has been civically engaged and sees the importance of everyone’s voices being heard,” he said. “That’s how I got involved with it.”

Lefebure, Bate, Schulte and Seabrooks are all Culver Fellows, which has provided them with multiple opportunities to pursue their interests, including trips to conferences at Harvard University.

“I just like seeing people our age getting involved,” Lefebure said. “They’re going to be the adults in the room very soon, and they need to take on a bigger role.”

As a nonpartisan public policy center, the Culver Center supports and partners with all of the student ambassadors and Culver Fellows who work to register students and increase college student voter turnout,” said Seth Andersen, director of the Culver Center. 

“Danielle, Levi, Abby, and Jailyn have done fantastic work this semester to raise the profile of voter registration and engagement on our campus. They will continue to work until the polls close on Election Day to make sure that all Simpson students have an opportunity to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”