As the November elections quickly approach, students in North Carolina are getting ready to mobilize their peers to make sure their voices are heard this election. To prepare, NCPIRG Students and NCPIRG Education Fund have set out to help register students to vote and make sure they have a plan to cast their ballots safely this fall.
Responding to COVID-19
Our state has been in the news recently as campuses, notably the University of North Carolina, got their start in-person and quickly had to make the switch to virtual learning as cases of COVID-19 spiked. Our team has been there to help make sure students’ basic needs are being met during the pandemic, in addition to providing consumer tips covering things like parents and students traveling to and from campus. We sent educational resources to students about wearing face masks and social distancing, and have continued our campaign calling on our state’s leaders to provide more testing and to “shut down, start over, and do it right.”
New Voters Project
So far this fall, NCPIRG Education Fund organizers have hired over 130 interns. Student leaders launched our New Voters Project campaign at 15 campuses across the state, including five community colleges. 130 students turned out virtually to these campaign launches, and will be working over the next few weeks to ensure their peers are registered to vote and have the information they need to cast their ballot safely.
UNC Chapel Hill saw over 50 people attend the New Voters Project campaign kickoff, led by our chapter chair, Caitlyn Sigafose (aka Sig) a junior majoring in Neuroscience.
Our newest chapter is Forsyth Community College. Many of our most motivated students this semester are a part of Forsyth Tech’s Early College program. These are high school students working overtime to earn their associate degree at the same time as their diploma. These students can’t exercise their right to vote yet, but are spending their already limited free time working to ensure that their peers can be represented in this election.
Ellie McCutchen, the president of the newly-established NCPIRG student club on campus, is one of them. Ellie has been working with NCPIRG since last spring and through the summer, where she completed our summer internship program. Ellie and our other Forsyth student leadership saw real potential for change in their community and were not willing to sit around and wait for it to happen.
Michaela Jordan, another Forsyth intern, is part of the school’s Nonprofit Management Certificate Program, and joined into our internship as an opportunity to grow and develop her already impressive activist skills and to better understand how campaigns are run and organized.
At the University of North Carolina – Pembroke, NCPIRG students are partnering with as many different organizations as possible to reach every student on campus with timely information about voting. To date the vote coalition includes 14 different partners such as Spectrum, UNC-Pembroke Collegiate Section of the National Council of Negro Women, and the student government.
Students are partnering with the basketball team to ensure the team is registered to vote and can help to educate their peers. Our team also trained Peer Mentors with UNCP’s Peer Mentorship Program to help their mentees register to vote. UNCP Peer Mentors will meet with every freshman at least four times a semester, which will allow them to continue to follow up to make sure freshmen are registered and have a plan to vote.
The team also launched a voter registration competition with the housing department. The Residence Hall that helps to register the most of its residents to vote using our online voter registration tool, StudentVote.org, will win a prize (and bragging rights). NCPIRG student leaders are also running a training for all UNCP Resident Advisors to make sure they know how to help their residents register to vote and have a solid plan to get their ballot cast.
Student Vote Summit
Finally, NCPIRG Students are gearing up to co-host the 5th annual student vote summit, bringing together youth-focused organizations from across the state for two days to strategize and plan for the best ways to turn out students to vote during this unprecedented time.
Almost 175 student leaders and staff from organizations have RSVP’d to attend. Other participating organizations include Campus Compact, CEEP, NCAAT, SLSV, Advance NC, You Can Vote, Ben and Jerry’s, Blueprint NC, CVP, CivicNation, Equality NC, NC Black Alliance, and Rock the Vote.
The summit includes guest speakers such as the Executive Director of the North Carolina Board of Elections, Karen Brinson Bell, updates on election laws and rules, breakout groups to share best practices and tools of virtual organizing, campus action planning, and time for all participants to take action to register their peers to vote during the summit!