On June 24, more than 50 student organizations across Harvard University announced their pledge to register, engage, and turn out 100 percent of voter eligible members ahead of Election Day 2020.

The Pledge to 100% comes at a time when the University is taking further steps to build a civic culture and institutionalize full participation in elections, despite the current remote environment. Initial organizations to adopt the pledge include: Association for Black Harvard Women, the Harvard College Republicans and Democrats, the Fleur-de-Lis Club, Harvard Law School’s Equal Democracy Project, and Harvard Veterans Alumni Organization.

Leading up to the 2020 elections, Harvard Votes Challenge, a civic engagement and voter participation initiative led as a collaboration between students, administrators, and faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics and Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, is working to ensure eligible affiliates across Harvard’s 12 degree-granting schools are prepared to vote this fall.

By signing the Pledge to 100%, each campus organization commits to engage its members in civic conversations, voter engagement trainings, and educational programming to ensure all eligible voters are prepared to cast their ballot this fall and in all future elections. The Harvard Votes Challenge commits to supporting campus organizations with toolkits and resources to support the pledge.

“Voting can become a key part of what it means to be a Harvard student. Creating a mass movement of friends, blockmates, and student organization leaders will help us get there,“ said Harvard Votes Challenge student co-chairs Kevin Ballen ‘22 and Amanda Powers ‘21 in a joint statement.

Organizations on campus that have taken the pledge are planning creative ways to engage their members in the voting process in a remote learning environment. They are organizing virtual town halls to talk about turnout and local elections, utilizing Big/Little relationships in Greek life and peer mentoring programs to hold members accountable to requesting absentee ballots, integrating civic conversations into virtual recruitment, and hosting celebratory events.

This spring, Harvard Votes Challenge collaborated with the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association (AAA) to co-host BAAAllots and Boba, a community event where students could register to vote and check their registration status, hear voting stories from their peers, and enjoy some boba.

Alexander Park ‘23, the APIA Vote Chair of the Asian American Association, said he is invested in breaking a negative stereotype surrounding Asian Americans and civic engagement.

“AAA’s mission, supported by HVC, to get 100 percent of its voting-eligible members registered and voting in 2020 is one important step in breaking this stereotype,” Park said. “In the fall, we are looking to host events about which issues Asian Americans might be interested in for the 2020 elections [and] highlighting Asian American candidates in local, state, federal elections along the way.”

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