The following is a guest contribution and reflects the authors’ views alone. For information on how to submit a piece to the Opinion section, click here.
Welcome to Princeton, Class of 2027! As you walk through FitzRandolph Gate and past the shadow of Nassau Hall, you will be faced with numerous opportunities to impact our nation and the world. These opportunities are within easy reach, just waiting for you to take advantage of them. However, it is your responsibility to take the initiative, wield these resources, and make the most out of your Princeton experience.
Luckily, Princeton not-so-subtly guides every member of the campus community towards these opportunities. Walking down to late meal in Frist Campus Center, brushed across the walls and many pillars of the Food Gallery are advertisements for Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS), which allow students to utilize skills learned at Princeton to improve communities across the United States. Closer to campus, some of you will also participate in a small-group orientation experience with Community Action, which will welcome you to “one of the greatest traditions at Princeton… service.” Finally, through the never-ending orientation events and talks, you will undoubtedly hear University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 mention a phrase that is not only Princeton’s unofficial motto, but a call to action: “In the nation’s service and the service of humanity.”
No matter how you navigate your way through the Orange Bubble, it will be made exceptionally clear that civic engagement has a strong presence in the fabric of this institution. And one of the best ways to be an active, civically engaged member of your community is to vote.
As first-year students in college, many of you are eligible to vote or will be soon. In the United States, you can vote in federal, state, and local elections if you are a United States citizen, meet your state’s residency requirements, are 18 years old before or on Election day, and are registered to vote.
Despite Princeton’s clear, visible calls for civic engagement, of which voting constitutes an important aspect, the history of Princeton’s voting rates has been disheartening. Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), found that only 10.5 percent of eligible Princeton students voted in 2014. These results let to the creation of Princeton Vote100, a student-led campus initiative partnered with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students. Vote100 aims to achieve 100 percent civic engagement among our student body. After many events, voter registration drives, and social media campaigns, voter turnout among Princetonians increased dramatically. In 2020, 75.4 percent of eligible Princeton students voted. As expected of our campus by the likes of President Eisgruber and PICS, the collective action of Princeton students can genuinely produce tangible results.
Vote100 also encourages all Princeton undergraduates, irrespective of age or citizenship, to vote in any elections they are eligible for — whether it be for an international election, Undergraduate Student Government election, or even something as simple as a club officer election. Taking advantage of any chance to vote supports the free and engaged democracy that Vote100 strives for. Vote100 will support you every step of the way for each ballot you cast.
This is where the Class of 2027 comes in. For many of you, this will be your first time living away from home, which can be an incredibly intimidating transition. Moving to a new state or simply having a new mailing address can pose as barriers to turning in your ballot on Election Day. Even if you were regularly voting before coming to Princeton, the overwhelming amount of things to do and see at your new home can understandably disrupt your voting habits. You are definitely not alone if you face these situations. Yet it is still your responsibility to continue with civic engagement, and Princeton provides an abundance of resources to help you be vote-ready. It’s as simple as clicking on a website.
Vote100 has a super tool called TurboVote, which serves as a singular destination for all your needs regarding registering to vote, checking your registration, requesting mail ballots, and signing up for election notifications.
Not only is TurboVote available for everyone to use anytime, but there are also familiar faces who are eager to help their peers achieve their voting goals. Vote100 Fellows and Ambassadors serve as accessible on-campus resources that you can reach out to if you need any assistance with voting or have questions about civic engagement, which can be more convenient than calling a helpline run by someone you don't know. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot a direct message to @princetonvote100 on Instagram, send an email to Vote100, or even chat with anyone you know who is involved with Vote100. You can even join the team yourself!
While only 23 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 voted in the 2022 midterm elections, Princetonians have recently been building a great track record with voting. Right across from the Architecture School stands Laura Wooten Hall, dedicated in 2022 to a Princeton Campus Dining worker who worked at the election polls for 79 years, becoming the longest-serving poll worker in the United States. Likewise, in 2020, a group of Princeton students alongside Denver East High School students, and a University of Chicago graduate student founded the nationally-recognized Poll Hero Project, which recruited thousands of young people to work at the 2020 election polls due to the shortage of volunteers during the pandemic. The efforts of your peers and Princeton community members should not be forgotten, but rather built upon. Being part of the newest class of Princetonians means keeping up the momentum of our ongoing mission to participate in and improve our democratic processes.
Class of 2027, we urge you to do your part in a nearly decade-long campaign in achieving 100 percent civic engagement. Join your classmates to make your new home the most civically engaged campus in the nation. To be a Princetonian is to vote.
Vivian Bui is a rising sophomore and prospective concentrator in the School of Public and International Affairs from Huntington Beach, California and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tanner McNamara is a rising sophomore and prospective concentrator in the School of Public and International Affairs from Houston, Texas and can be reached at email@example.com. Bui and McNamara are serving as 2023 Summer Fellows for Princeton Vote100.