Harvard Votes Challenge prepares for elections

Photo by Natalie Montaner/HKS

2 min read

The 2020 election season is underway and the Harvard Votes Challenge — a nonpartisan, University-wide effort to encourage voter participation — is making sure the Harvard University community is ready. Today, the Challenge unveiled new, easy-to-use resources, including guides for students, faculty, and staff organizers across campus.

Experts predict the November 2020 elections will result in unprecedented turnout, particularly among younger Americans. At Harvard, the Challenge will help students, faculty, and staff at all 12 degree-granting Schools as they mobilize, register, and vote. To do this, the new resources from the Challenge contain not only voter registration and election information, including important deadlines, but advice specific to organizing and creating a culture of civic engagement on campus.

“Voting should be easy,” says Teresa Acuña, associate director for democratic governance programs at Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “The new Harvard Votes Challenge website aims to lower the barriers to voting and give our community access to resources that can help them vote in and organize for every election.”

Launched in 2018 by Harvard’s Institute of Politics and the Ash Center, the Harvard Votes Challenge rallied students across campus to participate in the midterm elections. Across the University, the voter participation rate among the eligible citizen enrolled student population more than doubled to 48.6 percent from just 23.6 percent in 2014 – surpassing the national average of 40.3 percent.

The ability to organize and foster a sense of civic community at Harvard is what makes the Harvard Votes Challenge so effective. “Peer-to-peer community organizing was a key reason for HVC’s success in 2018,” says Amanda Powers, Harvard College ’22. “The website provides resources so that all everyone across the University can access the tools they need to become leaders and mobilize their communities to vote in 2020.”