Student debt, immigration policy and access to health care are issues that affect college students. But the very people that are impacted by these issues aren’t always heading to the polls to vote on them.
“There are a lot of impediments, particularly at colleges, for young people to vote. We’re in 60 colleges, about a million voters, they’re aged between 18 to 25, and we organize them to organize their peers. We don’t care what their opinion is, we just care that they express it,” said David Goodman, president of the Andrew Goodman Foundation.
The Andrew Goodman Foundation hosted 150 students and faculty from 60 different schools across the country at their fifth annual National Civic Leadership Training Summit at Montclair State University. David is Andrew Goodman’s brother, who the organization is named after. Andrew was a 20-year-old student who attended Queens College in New York and was an advocate for equality and voting rights. On June 21, 1964, Goodman was kidnapped and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan while volunteering to register African Americans to vote in Mississippi.
Andrew’s legacy and passion for equality now lives on through the organization’s Vote Everywhere program. The five-day summit provides student participants with training, strategies and tools needed to advance voter participation on their college campuses with the 2020 elections approaching.
“For the last hundreds of years, there’s always been some group trying to disenfranchise another group. All kinds of techniques are used to do that. Undemocratic. For instance, requiring all kinds of ID that they know certain people don’t have. If you’re rich and white you’re likely to have a driver’s license, and a birth certificate and a passport. How many people have a passport who are poor? They don’t travel to Europe for a weekend,” Goodman said.
The organization prides itself in being bipartisan. Student ambassadors say their goal is to get students to vote, not push an underlying agenda.
“I’m not here to change your ideology. I’m here to make you aware and educated that there is voter suppression happening and there are sections of laws that make it easier for certain states to suppress the vote. So that shows you that this isn’t isolated to the 1960s, it’s still happening today and it’s very serious,” said Noelia Vicente, a student ambassador at Rutgers University.
The summit also focused on implementing different strategies including social media to increase engagement and voter turnout.
“Having the college newspapers, or the college accounts, tweet out or post of Facebook. We buy those ad placements so the relational organizing apps are really big and that’s where I would forward a text to 10 of my friends and encourage them to vote. People will turnout if you can just get the text out from the friend. So can we give people Amazon gift cards to do it?” said Magdalen Sangiolo, Operation and Programs Manager at Vote.org.
Sangiolo was one of the guest speakers at the summit. She says it’s important for students to remember that every campus and state has its own challenges.
“Miami has ranked the top, if not the least, civically engaged city in the nation,” said Miami Dade College Institute of Civic Engagement Director Allison Kasney. “I’ve worked at campuses in Little Havana. [It’s] really difficult to do voter registration. So many of our students, even staff and faculty, are not citizens.”
“Georgetown is lucky to have a high level of voter engagement, but since we are located in the nation’s capital we are in a unique situation in which we have students from all 50 states who often want to vote from home. So we have to deal with absentee ballot requests. That’s 50 different systems with deadlines throughout the months of September, October and November,” said Georgetown student ambassador Andrew Straky.
The program is focused on all two-year and four-year colleges across the country. Goodman says his goal is to provide easier access for students to vote so that they know their voices are heard.