Campus-wide effort engages 6,700 University of Minnesota students

William Dammann is a student at the University of Minnesota, Director of Legislative and Government Affairs for the Minnesota Student Association, Legislative Affairs Director for the Association of Big Ten Students, and TurboVote implementer extraordinaire! 

The University of Minnesota began partnering with TurboVote in July of 2016. UMN finished the year with over 6,700 TurboVote sign-ups and engaged more than 15 percent of the student body!

Dammann calls himself a “liaison.” The liaising he did with his Minnesota Student Association team, university administration, and the broader campus community resulted in 8 TurboVote leaderboard appearances and being named overall winner of the fall 2016 TurboVote leaderboard for signup numbers.   

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After establishing a partnership with TurboVote, Dammann and his team decided how they wanted to focus their time and resources. They landed on #EveryVoteCounts for their branding, and also created messaging with the slogan “Vote From Home” to encourage absentee voting for in-state students. Dammann discussed his experiences interacting with legislators and subsequent motivation for encouraging students to vote in their home districts in “Why Students Should Vote,” an op-ed in the Minnesota Daily. 

Dammann identified three key administrative audiences that made sense to bring together to discuss voter engagement: the president’s office, government relations, and student affairs. These offices were able to provide various support, from funding to spreading the word about events to sharing the UMN TurboVote link with their audiences. Collaboration allowed for one centralized campaign across the university. 

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Consider how you can provide multiple touchpoints for voter engagement. Dammann’s advice to others doing this work is to “get it in front of students’ eyes as much as possible.”  That he did. UMN executed two TurboVote IT integrations: links to TurboVote were placed on the front page of MyU, the University of Minnesota’s enterprise portal, and UMN’s Moodle course management system. At least eight emails including a link to TurboVote were sent to the student body from various senders including the student body president and dean of students. The Minnesota Student Association organized Voterpalooza, a day-long civic engagement festival in September featuring elected officials and candidates, hosts of a popular podcast on politics, free pizza, and voter registration. These events and communications, coupled with regular promotion of TurboVote via social media, made it increasingly likely that a student would come across TurboVote. 

Minnesota has online voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and same-day voter registration. This allowed the UMN team to vary their messaging throughout the election season to continuously reach voters, even on Election Day. Understand the environment for voting in your state, and use it to your advantage. It’s critical to plan your outreach and communications with the relevant laws and deadlines in mind.