Photo from behind of three people at distanced polling booths

Get out the vote: Center for Civic Engagement and Learning provides resources for students to have their voices heard in upcoming presidential election

Editor’s Note: With the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic set to hold the first presidential debate next week (Tuesday, Sept. 29), The Daily will feature a number of debate-related articles in the days leading up to the event.

“Regardless of the result of this election, I’ll be able to say that I was not a bystander, that I did my part. Will you?” said Michelle Yun, a first-year student and first-time voter. 

With the first presidential debate taking place a week from today at the Health Education Campus, National Voter Registration Day today (Sept. 22), and the voter registration deadline approaching Oct. 5, students shared their perspectives on getting out the vote in the upcoming election.

Yun is part of a group of students working to engage their peers in the voting process this year. She is a member of the Voting Outreach Team, a non-partisan volunteer student group created by the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning (CCEL).

First-year student and first-time voter Jules van Oordt, who also is part of the Voting Outreach Team, sees the election offers a unique—and important—opportunity. Though she is from California, she’s looking forward to casting her vote in Ohio,  a potential swing state.

“This state is so fluid with elections, so I believe if we can get everyone on our campus to vote, our voices will be heard and will be echoed in the White House,” said van Oordt. “Our votes in this state are so important and will play a role in who our president will be for the next four years of college.”

CCEL offers nonpartisan resources to assist students navigate any hurdles they may face. From assistance with voter registration to education surrounding absentee and mail-in voting to making the process come full circle with support for submitting one’s ballot, CCEL works with students at all stages of the election. 

Through a nonpartisan partnership with the Andrew Goodman Foundation, CCEL also has three Vote Everywhere Ambassadors—students who promote voter registration and education. CWRU’s ambassadors, Johanna Chikuni, Ingrid Gillies and Mamadi Jallow, help reduce barriers that students may face and receive a stipend for their work.

“The role I have as an ambassador not only lets me mobilize students on this campus, but it provides a community of civically engaged young adults all across the country who continually inspire me,” said Gillies.

Gillies worked on building out virtual programming over the summer and assisted with efforts last semester to host debate watch parties, improve the “proof of residency” information in the Student Information System and host voter-registration days.

“We really want to reduce the barriers to getting involved politically and make students feel like they can have a voice here,” said Betsy Banks, director of CCEL. While volunteer service is sometimes the first thing that comes to mind when considering the work CCEL does, voter engagement and education is another crucial component of the center’s work. Banks said she hopes students will recognize that voting is a way through which they can have their voices heard.

“It’s a skill and power we hope continues forward,” Banks said.

Tips from CCEL on how to vote

In recognition of National Voter Registration Day (Sept. 22), CCEL has several tips for students on how to approach the political process: 

  • Make sure your address is up to date.
  • Those who have lived in Ohio for at least 30 days prior to the election are eligible to vote in Ohio.
  • Those who previously registered to vote in Ohio but who are studying remotely this semester will need to register in their home state.
  • Make a voting plan, complete paperwork early and vote early, if possible.
  • For those concerned about absentee and mail-in voting, in some states, individuals are able to track their ballot online (track your ballot in Ohio).

For those who have questions, CCEL can help. Students can connect with the center in person or virtually to get help filling out voter registration forms, submitting absentee ballot requests and more. The center even offers envelopes and stamps free of charge for students who need them to mail in their forms. Those with questions also can drop in on twice weekly Zoom sessions (Thursdays and Fridays from 3:15 to 4 p.m.) to speak with a staff member or student leader at the center.

Additionally, students can take advantage of the university’s membership to TurboVote, an online platform through which they can access all of the forms they need to register and sign up for email and text alerts related to voting. 

The Voting Outreach Team also helps deliver “Voting 101” presentations, which they can give during classes and student organization meetings.

For more information on voting resources, deadlines and FAQs, check the CCEL website.