Young people turned out big this Election Cycle. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) the youth vote may increase between 5 to 10 percentage points in 2020 over 2016 nationally. CIRCLE is also projecting that once all votes are counted, youth turnout may rise to a historic 53%-56%.
Here in North Carolina, NCPIRG Students’ New Voters Project worked hard to help register and mobilize students to vote and participate in our democracy. Over the course of the past year, our student leaders launched voter registration programs on 10 college campuses in North Carolina.
The student leaders we trained through our program not only organized their communities—they raised the voices of all young people across the state. These emerging leaders attended the North Carolina College Voting Summit, led vote coalitions on their campuses, and hosted in partnership with student leaders throughout the south to get out the vote.
Together, our team helped register hundreds of college students across the state and educated tens of thousands more about when, where, and how to vote! We —
- Organized at some of the largest public universities in the state, including the UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, and NC State University. Beyond just these schools, we organized at a mix of public schools, private universities, and community colleges to reach a broad and diverse range of student activists in the state.
- We expanded our presence to over 12 Community Colleges across the state.
- Presented in over 200 virtual classrooms about registering to vote or voting safely.
- Called thousands of students to make sure they were registered to vote through hundreds of hours of phone-banking.
- Worked with university departments, vote coalitions, athletics, civic engagement offices to send out emails to the entire student body with a link to our online voter registration website ncstudentvote.org.
- Launched voter registration competitions, like the UNC Pembroke housing competition where Residential Advisors (RA’s) were trained on voter registration and helped their residents register to vote in RA meetings, as well as a competition with Duke Interfraternity Council (IFC) to get greek life participants registered and make sure they pledged to vote safely!
- Partnered with other non-profits in the state in a variety of ways, such as hosting speakers from Democracy NC (see below), holding joint events with You Can Vote at NCSU, and planning the college voter summit with Campus Compact, NC Asian Americans Together, Campus Election Engagement Project, Campus Vote Project, and more.
- Contacted over 15,000 people through phone calls and text messages to make sure every student had a plan to vote.
The week of the voter registration deadline, student leaders and our team presented in over 100 virtual classes and spoke to over 2,000 students over the phone about updating their voter registration. The work didn’t stop there. During the weeks following the voter registration deadline we called for nearly 1,000 hours to make sure students had the resources they needed to get to the polls or cast their ballot early. We called and texted over 8,000 people leading up to Election Day and made a final push on Election day to call people up until the polls closed.
Engaging and Training Student Leaders
“Interning with NCPIRG this semester on the New Voters Project was a gratifying experience that allowed me to explore leadership, get more involved with my community, and encourage others to shape history through voter registration efforts.”
– Ellie McCutchen, Forsyth Tech Community College, Class of 2021
“Although this semester was challenging for so many reasons, working with NCPIRG was extremely rewarding. We were able to reach out to so many people about voting in the 2020 election! Hearing people’s excitement to vote along with the increased turn out this year gave me hope.”
– Caitlyn Sigafose, UNC- Chapel Hill, Class of 2022
“Through NCPIRG Students, I have been able to make great contributions to my community and become more involved in causes I believe will help all people. Some of my proudest moments in PIRG have been the opportunities it’s provided me with, such as serving on the mini-grants board with the Millennial Voters Project (Statewide coalition with Democracy NC, Common Cause and Ignite NC) and being able to speak on behalf of USPIRG at an Open Education Convention, which I never would have experienced if I wasn’t involved!”
-Efi Jagun, Durham Tech Community College, Class of 2021
Even though the election has come and gone, our work in North Carolina is far from over. Students are as excited as ever to get involved! We ran an incredibly robust volunteer and internship program and have worked with over 200 volunteers and 100 interns this fall. We’ve started new NCPIRG clubs on a number of campuses and are continuing many of our efforts into the spring semester.
Already, our interns and volunteers have organized more work around National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week to bring visibility to food insecurity issues on their campuses. A number of our top students also attended our Federal Lobby Day where they met with their elected officials and advocated for emergency funding for students in light of COVID-19 impacts.
Additionally, at UNC Chapel Hill, students just won a huge victory for their College Affordability Campaign. During spring course registration, students, for the first time, will be able to see the cost of the textbooks associated with a class while they select their course load for the next semester. This means that students can more easily opt in to classes with free or open-source materials.
And of course, students aren’t slowing down on their Break Free From Plastics campaign either! This past summer our interns worked to get the first Community College commitment in the country to eliminate unnecessary single use plastics at Durham Tech. Now our interns are going back to campus administrators to help finalize a timeline and taskforce to get the job done.
NCPIRG Students or North Carolina Public Interest Research Group, is an advocacy group that works to protect consumers and strengthen our democracy. We were founded by students based on the idea that students can make a huge difference for society when we pool our resources together.
Students have the right and the responsibility to shape the future we will inherit. The Student PIRGs’ program spans over 100 campuses in 11 states, of which 35 campuses have self-funding programs, that provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry and more. Students have been at the forefront of social change throughout history, from civil rights, to voting rights to protecting the environment. For over 40 years we’ve helped our campus communities get organized, mobilized and energized so they can continue to be on the cutting edge of positive change. Every year, over 4,000 students gain hands-on experience in organizing and activism by volunteering with us.
Please feel free to contact me, Katie Craig NCPIRG Organizing Director, by phone at 919-239-3500 or email at [email protected] with any questions about our program.