University launches coalition to encourage students to vote
The group, VoteDeis, is working to ensure that students are educated, registered and ready to vote in upcoming elections.
In early September, the University launched VoteDeis, a campus coalition dedicated to encouraging students to register and vote in upcoming elections. The coalition is composed of faculty, students and staff members. They help people register and make a plan to vote, share stories of why community members vote and provide links to voting resources, all of which can be found on the VoteDeis website.
In a Sept. 10 email to the University community, Provost Lisa Lynch introduced the VoteDeis website, which contains comprehensive steps for voter registration, via Vote.org, as well as guidance for students seeking absentee or mail-in ballots. For those with further questions, the VoteDeis website designates University Government Information Librarian Aimee Slater and the University Library guide to voting as resources.
As part of the VoteDeis initiative, members of the Brandeis community recorded videos explaining why they vote. Students can watch video testimonials from Prof. Anita Hill (Heller), President Ronald Liebowitz, and other faculty, students and alumni, available on the VoteDeis website. Liebowitz also signed the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, a commitment by leaders in higher education to ensure that students are informed about and participate in elections.
Prof. Jill Greenlee (POL) explained in a Sept. 22 interview with the Justice why voting in this presidential election is particularly important. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic crisis, as well as this year’s highly visible violence against people of color, Greenlee said that “we need government institutions to lead the way,” because these issues cannot be solved by individuals alone.
Alison Hagani ’22 represents the Sociology department in the VoteDeis coalition. Hagani is an Undergraduate Department Representative for Sociology, as well as a representative for the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center. Hagani echoed Greenlee’s sentiments in a Sept. 23 interview with the Justice. “Voting is an opportunity for people to act on their beliefs,” Hagani said, and “on problems they see around them.” By voting, Hagani said, people can help shape their communities according to their values and address the issues that they see as most pressing.
Hagani called college students “a formidable voting bloc” that has the potential for significant impact on the political process, and said that young people can help each other “realize that responsibility and power” by encouraging one another to exercise their right to vote. According to Hagani, checking in with friends to make sure they have a plan to vote is important, as is being “proactive” and planning ahead, as some states’ policies have changed.
Voting in college is “very important,” Greenlee said, because “it puts individuals on a path for political engagement in the future, and puts them on a path to being regular voters.” This kind of routine political involvement and attentiveness, Greenlee said, is integral to democracy.
VoteDeis is a non-partisan, campus-wide initiative organized through the Dean of Students Office. According to Greenlee, David Weinstein, the Assistant Director for Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation, and Director of Programs in International Justice and Society Leigh Swigart created this initiative. Work on the coalition began in March and was “derailed” by the COVID-19 pandemic, but continued through the summer, Greenlee said.
In addition to the VoteDeis website, the coalition is organizing tabling sessions to register students and answer questions, and is hosting presidential debate watch parties so that students can make an informed decision in the presidential election, Hagani said.
—Editor's Note: The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is an initiative of Civic Nation, a nonprofit for which editor Jocelyn Gould ’21 interns. She did not contribute to or edit this article.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Prof. Jill Greenlee (POL) and Prof. Daniel Kryder (POL) created the VoteDeis initiative. David Weinstein, the Assistant Director for Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation, and Director of Programs in International Justice and Society Leigh Swigart created the VoteDeis coalition.