From the September 2020 Desktop News | The UA chapter of Vote Everywhere was recently awarded Chapter of the Year by the group’s parent organization, the Andrew Goodman Foundation, which advocates for young people to vote and be civically engaged with their communities.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation was established in honor of Andrew Goodman, a college student who was part of the Freedom Summer 1964 to register African Americans to vote. On his first day in Mississippi, Goodman and two of his teammates were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. His family created the foundation in 1966, and then established Vote Everywhere, which specifically targets college campuses to increase voter turnout.
“Our youth should not disqualify us from making our voices heard,” Ben Leonard, last year’s team leader, said. “Certain issues—like student loan debt, access to healthcare, a living wage, and climate change—will uniquely affect our generation, and we should make our opinions known at the ballot box.”
UA’s chapter of Vote Everywhere was established in 2015, focusing on increasing the voter turnout by registering students to vote and making absentee ballots more accessible.
“Upwards of 80 percent of students are registered, but there’s a huge gap between who’s registered and who actually votes,” Samuel Reece, the 2020-2021 team leader, said. “A goal for us this year is to see if we can close the gap between theoretical and actual voters.”
The team has implemented several measures to increase voter turnout, such as persuading UA to purchase TurboVote for myBama. Here, students can register to vote, look at candidates and issues on their election ballots, request absentee ballots, and more.
UA’s team has also worked to ensure that all students living on campus can receive their absentee ballot in the Ferguson Mail Center using their individual mail stop code. They have also hosted a lecture series on voting rights, inviting legislators and voting rights activists to speak to students.
While the primary goal of Vote Everywhere is to increase voter turnout, the team also strives to get UA students more involved in government, whether in Tuscaloosa or in their hometowns.
“The goal is not just voting for voting’s sake—it’s also to get students more involved in politics,” Dr. Richard Fording, UA political science professor and Vote Everywhere faculty adviser, said. “Voting is the primary way that we express our opinions. In the process of getting students to vote, we want to get students paying attention and making informed decisions, as well.”
This year’s team is already working in preparation for the November 3 election. Reece and his teammates are working with the Alabama Secretary of State so UA’s new digital ACT cards are valid for voter identification.
“I personally feel very strongly that civic involvement is something that creates long-term happiness and sustains a democracy,” Reece said. “It’s something where everybody can feel accepted and included as part of the conversation. So I want to make it as accessible as possible.”