Jay Falk organized voter registration events at T.C. Williams in Virginia and helped her school earn the VA Commissioner's Award. Before Jay left for UPenn, she shared some insights on Voter Registration in High Schools.
Jay, now an Inspired Alumni, was an Inspired Leader and Fellow in Virginia and assisted 400 of her peers to register to vote. Jay has some helpful tips for high schools to be successful in registering students to vote.
MAXIMIZING STUDENT REGISTRATION
Students who don’t know their SSN
- Many students have their social security number on their common app under citizenship or the FAFSA (specific to VA)
- Remind students to bring their SSN prior to a drive
In-class presentations work better
- In big group presentations, students get distracted. You have a captive audience in the classroom
Shorter presentations are better
- Make the call to action short and sweet and spend the longest time on going through the voter registration form and pledge cards. Presentations should not go longer than 30 minutes unless the students are engaged and asking questions.
In class, registration should be done in teams of two or three
- One person should be explaining and reading instructions from the front of the class and the other one or two people should be floating around the room looking over people’s shoulders, answering questions, correcting mistakes, giving new reg forms, encouraging reluctant students.
Collect data on your registration methods
- If you are doing classroom presentations, you should be prepared; know the number of students in each class, teacher name, class level (AP/Honors), and the day and time of the presentation.
- After the presentation record number registered, number pledged, and any notes on the class.
Look for patterns in the data
- In what classes did you get the most registrations? In which did you get the least? Was there bad attendance to classes at the end of the day? Where students less likely to register during lunch?
Volunteers who need to be trained but don’t want to attend the training
- Do the training at the event BEFORE it starts - then people have to be early too!
- Offer food/free t-shirts at the training
- Bring the training to them - I was worried that some volunteers were not fully ready the day before so I called them individually and walked them through the voter reg form again
Volunteers can be unreliable & hard to recruit
Make sure you have more people scheduled than you need. Volunteers can be more reliable if they are:
- from honor societies
- held accountable to fulfilling their hours
- required to attend a training, because you have already weeded out the less reliable people who don’t show up for training
- contacted and followed up with individually
- friends or you have a connection with them
- Make sure you have more people scheduled than you need. Volunteers can be more reliable if they are:
Volunteers are busy
- Offer volunteer opportunities at different times and days because everyone’s schedule is different. Different time/days are: before and after school, during lunch, during night events, during weekend events
- Student news
- Hallway Posters
- PA Announcements
- Blackboard Announcements
- Teacher in-class announcements
- Teacher canvas announcements)
Make the Teacher’s/Volunteer’s job easy!
- I personally think the most effective and targeted method of advertising an event or call to action is teacher in-class and canvas announcements. If you only want to reach certain students (e.g. seniors, or International Academy) you can specifically talk to the teachers of the students you want to reach. I found that this method is most effective if you ask teachers in two parts:
- Ask them to do the announcement in class and on canvas via email or in a big group meeting, once they agree
- Email them suggested wording for a canvas announcement
- Follow up in person by dropping off flyers in the classroom to give students during the announcement. While there, ask them if they have done the canvas announcement yet, and guide them through it if possible.