Allegheny College has been designated as a Voter Friendly Campus through an initiative led by two national nonpartisan organizations — the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project and NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
The initiative held participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encouraged their students to register and vote in the 2020 elections and in the coming years. The mission of the Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process. Allegheny College was evaluated based on a campus plan about how the college would register, educate and turn out student voters in 2020, how the college facilitated voter engagement efforts on its campus, and a final analysis of its efforts — all in the face of the upheaval caused by a global pandemic. The designation is valid through December 2022.
“Like every other higher education institution, we faced difficulties that arose as a result of the public health crisis, confronted the challenges and traumas of racial injustice and economic precariousness, and sought to meaningfully engage our community during a time of heightened political polarization and often caustic public discourse,” said Brian Harward, Robert G. Seddig chair in political science and director of the Center for Political Participation at Allegheny. “The student leadership team worked hard, beginning well over a year in advance, to register every student and then to encourage them to vote. Ultimately, those efforts paid off — we estimate that we had the highest rate of student turnout we’ve ever had.”
Among many other efforts to encourage voter registration and turnout, Allegheny established a central clearinghouse, named AC Votes 2020, for the college and community that offered resources, talks, activities, meetings and programming on three core dimensions: personal and community well-being, civic engagement, and public health and safety.
Along with coordinating dozens of outreach sessions and overall communications efforts, student leaders designed an online form that enabled users to answer a few questions and derive from those answers the applicable state laws and deadlines for their voter registration. Student leaders also set up masked and distanced voter registration stations for new and returning students, and they held virtual voter registration drives and met with classes during the fall semester.
Allegheny is one of more than 200 campuses in 37 states and the District of Columbia to earn the Voter Friendly Campus designation. The institutions designated as such represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural and urban campuses. Notably, the list of designated institutions includes many minority serving institutions and historically Black colleges and universities. The program is ultimately serving millions of students.