Vote100 — a student-run initiative at the University founded with the aim of increasing campus civic engagement — is collaborating with organizations from the seven other Ivy League schools to compete in a variety of student voter engagement challenges leading up to the U.S. presidential election in November. These challenges, which are run through the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, are centered around two main goals: building the most innovative voting program and raising voter turnout by the highest possible margin.
Sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, Vote100 boasts over 100 members, including undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty members, and administrators. With a campus-wide voter turnout of 48.3 percent in the 2016 general election, the organization believes that initiatives like the Ivy League Voting Challenge are necessary to keep students politically engaged and active.
“We hope that this challenge will help ramp up the steady growth in voter participation Princeton has had since Vote100 was founded,” said Morgan Smith ’21, a cohort leader for Vote100 and president of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. “Our current participation is not nearly as high as a university of our nature should be at, and through creating challenges and competitions, we are trying to show that voting shouldn’t just be a civic duty, but an enjoyable act of service.”
The first main initiative in the challenge, which concluded this past Monday, asked students to use an app called Outvote to reach out to friends and family by text to share information about voting. The university with the highest amount of texts will win a Zoom conversation with Damien Chazelle, the director of the award-winning film “La La Land.”
“We asked him if he would donate his Oscar — which he obviously declined,” Vote100 student ambassador Josh Babu ’22 told The Daily Princetonian. “But a private Zoom call is certainly a generous prize.”
The winner of the contest has yet to be determined.
Ana Blanco ’23, a Vote100 ambassador and summer 2020 fellow, noted that this year, the organization had put in far more time and effort than in years prior, partly due to the Ivy Votes Challenge.
“As a part of the Vote100 summer fellowship, we met frequently over 10 weeks, tackling issues such as voter education, reaching out to various student organizations, orientation, advocacy, and outreach to ensure that Princeton put its best foot forward in such a consequential election,” Blanco said. “I think it will certainly pay off come election day.”
Oct. 10 is Tiger Ballot Day, another initiative which focuses on helping students create a plan for voting, including absentee ballot requests.
“While a lot of focus is on voter registration, it’s even more important that we ensure that registered voters are prepared and committed to actually casting their ballot,” Smith said. “And that’s what Tiger Ballot Day is all about.”
Regarding campus engagement, Babu echoed Blanco’s optimism for this year’s election.
“I expect voter turnout to be much higher than previous years, partly due to our increased initiatives with the challenge this year and partly because of the stakes of this particular election,” Babu told the ‘Prince.’ “It’s a unique time in American history and it’s so important that everyone goes out and votes.”
While the challenge may serve as a chance for competition, it is also a collaborative opportunity.
“Working with these universities and ALL IN has helped us to create better and more sustainable voting programs, both here at Princeton and at the rest of the Ivy League as well,” Smith emphasized. ”While we definitely want to win the challenge and show the other Ivies up, I hope that this collaboration will raise voter turnout across the board — because at the end of the day, all votes are vital.”
Since Vote100 was founded in 2015, they have seen an increase in voting from students, with turnout on campus rising from around 10 percent in the 2014 midterm-elections to over 45 percent by 2018.
“But that’s not enough,” Blanco clarified. “Our goal is to eventually get 100 percent of eligible voters to go to the polls.”