Miami Prepares Students for the 2020 General Election

4 students physically distanced outside Butler County Board of Elections

Photo Credit: Andrew Devedjian

Each election year, civically-oriented departments and organizations on campus encourage students to exercise their right to vote. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted how their work is unfolding this year. What has typically included voter registration events, large in-person programs, and a party at the polls has given way this year to more creative endeavors.

“The pandemic has forced us to be much more creative in the ways that we reach students,” said Autumn Jager, graduate assistant for the Wilks Institute for Leadership and Service. “[It’s also] caused a much heavier emphasis on absentee and early voting than ever before.”

Jager supervises the Wilks Civic Engagement team, composed of two Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) ambassadors and one Campus Election Engagement Program (CEEP) fellow, as well as student coordinators in Wilks. The group has dedicated the fall semester to preparing Miami students to vote in the upcoming election. They hope to educate students about the voting process, engage students in civic engagement activities, and increase Miami student voter turnout from 55% (2016) to 60% in 2020.

In pursuit of these goals, the Wilks Civic Engagement team has focused on voter registration, early voting, and absentee voting to date.

Student Reena Murphy holding up voter registration forms outside Maplestreet Commons

On National Voter Registration Day, students handed out voter
registration forms outside most dining halls during peak hours.

From dropping off registration forms to off-campus students by request to hosting weekly virtual voter registration drives with the Associated Student Government to in-person tabling, the team is determined to provide students with the information they need to vote this fall.

“Everyone should vote because we’re electing more than just a president,” said Reena Murphy, AGF ambassador. “We’re electing congresspeople, mayors, sheriffs, and so many more community leaders.”

After successfully registering more than 250 students to vote in Ohio, the team hosted a virtual student organization debate featuring the college democrats, the college republicans, and the young democratic socialists of America. More than 100 people attended.

AGF ambassadors partnered with the Division of Student Life for an Instagram story takeover on October 13. The takeover followed several students through the early voting process at the Butler County Board of Elections, and yielded over 40,000 impressions. The team also launched a digital voting kit for Ohio voters, shared on the RedHawks Count Instagram.

Getting out the vote

Students registered in Butler County have plenty of options on how they can vote in the election. They can choose to vote on Election Day in person at their designated polling station, vote early in person at the Butler County Board of Elections, or vote by mail with an absentee ballot.

For those voting on Election Day, Miami's on-campus polling location has changed this year. The polling station has moved to Millett Hall to accommodate greater physical distancing. In previous years voting occurred at the Shriver Center.

Much of the action in preparing students to vote can be found on Instagram.

Post election support

The Division of Student Life is also preparing to support students after the election.

The Student Counseling Service will increase Campus Care sessions from 2-3 sessions per week to 2 sessions per weekday from November 2 - 20, 2020. Campus Care allows students to drop in (virtually) for a one-on-one conversation with a licensed mental health counselor. No appointment is necessary and there is no fee. Student Counseling has also partnered with the Center for Teaching Excellence to distribute resources for faculty.

Student Life will also host facilitated debriefing sessions after the election. Facilitators will receive training support from the Student Counseling Service and the Wilks Institute for Leadership and Service.

Our hope is to make sure that students are mentally and emotionally prepared for any outcome of the 2020 election," said John Ward, Director of Student Counseling. "It is important to provide students with intellectual and self-care resources to ensure that they can successfully navigate change and maintain resilience despite times of uncertainty."

Student Life is collaborating with several faculty members in political science to provide debrief messages on social media following the election as well.