The Final Push: Social Media Companies and Student Groups Register Voters Ahead of Midterms

Alanna Demetrius | The PhoenixAhead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, student groups at Loyola are joining companies around the country in voter registration initiatives.

From national tech giants to Loyola student groups, nationwide efforts are pushing college students to vote in the midterm elections Nov. 6.

The Loyola Votes campaign has held several events encouraging students to register to vote since August. Loyola Votes helped approximately 500 students register to vote during U-Pass pickup in August, The Phoenix reported.

Snap Inc., the company behind Snapchat, has partnered with Democracy Works to help register more than 400,000 people to vote, according to Democracy Works. Snap Inc. integrated Democracy Work’s tool, TurboVote, into its popular photo messaging app, Snapchat, Democracy Works said.

Democracy Works is a nonprofit organization that builds online tools in hopes of making voting easier. The company partners such as cooperations and colleges to register people to vote and encourage civic engagement.

Jill Brownfield works on the TurboVote partnerships team at Democracy Works. She said Snapchat is an ideal tool for reaching college-age students, who typically turn out in low numbers at the polls.

“TurboVote is interested in reaching people where they are,” Brownfield said.

The majority of Snapchat users who registered to vote were 18-24 years old, according to a memo Snap Inc. sent to The Phoenix.

Phillip Hale, Loyola’s vice president of Government Affairs, has led the Loyola Votes campaign. He said the efforts on campus are shifting from getting students registered to vote to getting them to the polls.

Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney encouraged students to turn in their ballots in an email sent to the student body Oct. 23. Hale said this was in partnership with Loyola Votes and it’s shifting focus toward election day.

Hale has encouraged student leaders to use the power of social media — as Snapchat has — to take selfies after voting early. In Cook County, early voting takes place Oct. 22 through Nov. 5.

Voters registered in Chicago can vote early at places throughout the city. Around Loyola, early voting is available at Pottawattomie Park (7340 N. Rogers Ave.) and at the Edgewater Public Library (6000 N. Broadway).

Hale said through the help of students involved in Loyola Votes he’s learned the power of social media.

“It is no secret that social media is one of the best ways to reach students, and this is a student-oriented campaign, so of course, we are going to use social media,” Hale said.

After the 2016 elections, only 28 percent of young people said they were certainly planning on voting in the midterm elections, compared to 74 percent of seniors, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

This year, researchers have noticed an increase in youth engagement following events such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Young people, 18-24 years old, who said they’re engaged with the Post-Parkland movement for stricter gun regulations are 50 percent more likely to say they’re “extremely likely” to vote in the midterms, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

Twitter also partnered with TurboVote in September to launch the “#BeAVoter” campaign. The social media site prompted users to register to vote on their timelines, and showed the hashtag on the trending page.

Jennifer Stout, Snap Inc.’s global head of public policy, said the company is working to launch tools and products to help users vote this election season.

“Voting is one of the most important forms of self-expression we have, and we’re committed to empowering our community to register and vote for their chosen representatives,” Stout said in a statement emailed to The Phoenix.

Administration-led initiatives aren’t the only ones that can be spotted around campus. Loyola’s Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) and Loyola’s Indivisible chapter, a liberal organization, have been taking part in their own events in preparation for the midterm elections.

Samantha Jurvich, a sophomore studying English, is leading SEA’s election efforts. Recently, the group held “Let’s Taco ‘bout Voting,” where students discussed voting on environmental issues during a taco party.

Jurvich said SEA is pushing students to vote because she believes a high turnout rate among college students could lead to environmental change.

“If there was a higher turnout amongst college students we could make a great change in social issues, environmental issues, and just let the older generations know that we are out here and we do care,” Jurvich said.

Nick Boyle, a sophomore studying political science, co-founded Loyola’s Indivisible chapter.

The group isn’t formally recognized by Loyola as universities that receive public funding can’t engage political action and endorsements such as Indivisible’s. Unlike other partisan groups recognized by Loyola, Indivisible is more action-based than discussion-based, according to Boyle.

Boyle and members of the club have been canvassing and phone banking, calling residents to check if they are registered and give information about elections, for candidates such as Bridget Fitzgerald, a Democrat running for state senate in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs.

Boyle said he recognized the importance of voting during the 2016 presidential elections when he was a few months short of being eligible to vote.

“I felt powerless in that election, and I never want to feel that way again,” Boyle said.

Assistant News Editor Jane Miller is a member of Indivisible and didn’t assign or edit this story.

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