Created in 2017, the Big Ten Voting Challenge is a way to mobilize students to vote on college campuses. Erin Byrnes leads the initiative at the University of Michigan. She says that this election cycle, organizers have relied on online campaigns to engage with students.
“Social media has been big for us, Instagram, in particular, has really helped us to get the word out,” say Byrnes. She also says that the team has worked with residence halls to include election messaging on digital display screens in dorms. “We’re really working to meet students where they are in the digital space, and in the physical spaces that they’re occupying currently.”
Another big initiative is encouraging students to register to vote before Election Day. Prior to the March presidential primary, Byrnes says that large numbers of students were getting registered to vote the day before and day of the election. To mitigate that this time around, Byrnes’ team is getting the word out early, and has created a satellite clerk’s office to accommodate student needs.
University of Michigan undergraduate students are currently under a “stay in place” order until Election Day due to a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, but Byrnes says that shouldn’t stop them from voting: “Voting is still, within that order, a permissible activity so students are still able to and encouraged to go to the satellite office on campus to get registered and vote early. We’re encouraging students to do that on an individual basis.”