EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester WTVR.com has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Students from the project reported the following story.
RICHMOND, Va. – While the excitement on college campuses around the state is noticeably lower than in last year’s presidential election, voting organizations and initiatives are doing everything to get students to the polls in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election. All volunteers are on deck for their turnout efforts. And VCU will even have a shuttle ready for its students to get to the polling places near campus.
Watch interviews with VCU students about the gubernatorial election.
Virginia21, a non-partisan organization that focuses on registering and rallying young voters, registered more than 2,000 voters through its Turbovote website in the three weeks before the registration deadline last month. Now it sends reminders and notifications via email and text messages.
“Student voter registration numbers are up 100 percent or more in some places, when you compare it to the last election like this in 2009,” said Tom Kramer, executive director of Virginia21. “The question will be if those registrations turn out to vote,” added Kramer, who believes that this year’s gubernatorial race is one in which young people can make a difference.
“We’re going to be sending reminders constantly,” Kramer said. “Whether it’s on their mobile phone or their email address, we need them to turn out.”
Virginia21’s efforts have only been online, especially through social media. “This is sort of a test for us,” Kramer said. “We’re trying to do things all over the internet with email and social media, using a lot of Facebook and a lot of Twitter.” He explained that during the presidential election in 2012, Virginia21 noticed the effectiveness of social media.
“The question is what’s the most effective means to turn voters out?” Kramer said. Virginia21, he thinks, is “in a better position to take advantage of our social media and online resources.”
Another initiative heading the effort to get students to the polls is VCU Votes, which has been raising awareness about this fall’s election through its presence on campus, registering students and raising awareness. Emily Satchell, a journalism student and the campaign manager of VCU Votes, said that she and her volunteers have been in the University Student Commons three to four times a week.
“We are trying to get students informed, registered, and ready to go on election day to vote,” Satchell said. Because VCU doesn’t have a central voting location, it can be difficult for students to figure out where they need to go to vote, she said. Satchell compiled information on all of the polling places in a handout that is available on the initiative’s website, alongside information about each of the candidates.
“We have non-partisan information; really simple layouts covering basic platforms that each of the candidates stand for, so that students are well informed before they go to the polls,” Satchell said.
Along with informing students about the election, VCU votes will also help promote a shuttle service that the university is offering between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday. VCU’s RamSafe shuttle will pick up students at Cabell Library on the Monroe Park campus and at the Larrick Student Center on the MCV campus and drive them to the polling places that the various campus dorms are assigned to.
“We are collecting pledges to vote, trying to get people to sign up and give us their email, so that we can send out a big push on Election Day,” said Satchell, who added that there is generally a lack of young voters in off-year elections.
“This is such a downplayed election compared to the presidential election. I don’t think a lot of students really even know when Election Day is,” she said. “Despite the gubernatorial election being downplayed, we’re still trying to build it up and make students aware that it’s just as big of a deal as the presidential election.”
This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.