Webster Votes has decided to collaborate with the Campus Election Engagement Project, also known as CEEP, to increase voter engagement from students interested in helping to spread the word about voting. Webster Votes wants to educate students about voting and get them engaged in the community.
Different departments on campus created Webster Votes before the 2016 presidential election, but it was not an official group. It was included in organizations like Campus Activities that promote voting during the 2016 elections by having a watch party, and viewing the voting results.
Jennifer Stewart, the Director of Student Engagement, said she wanted to help students register to vote. After the 2016 elections, she gathered other faculty, staff and students wanting to stress the importance of voting. Together, they made it an official group.
Jacob Wilson, the director for Missouri said that CEEP is providing resources to Webster Votes that make students understand what issues are on the ballot and to inspire them to be educated with their voting decision. This is the first year in which CEEP expanded to Missouri for this upcoming general elections, as well as their first time working with Webster University.
Wilson is working with Webster University to brainstorm plans to help students overcome barriers for voting. CEEP has a fellows programs that will be responsible to plan and host events on their campuses and to ensure that students are engaged.
Katie Fields is a fellow for CEEP from Webster University and a senior double majoring in Business and Administration and Management. As a fellow, Fields is required to plan six events for 10-15 hours a week, including two voter registration drives, two voter education meetings and two get out to vote events.
Fields is currently planning two events, including a mock election and absentee ballot informational. Webster Votes is providing shuttles to the polling place for students who does not have reliable transportation.
Webster Votes held their first event–a voter registration drive–at the New Student Orientation by talking with new students who are eligible to vote. They are planning other events that will occur this year, such as an Election Night Party and Constitution Day.
Stewart explained that government funded universities have to celebrate the holiday. She wants everything to come out in one push so other events that tie with voting will not have to plan an event by themselves. Stewart is trying to bring Eric Fey, the St. Louis County Board of Elections director and Webster University alum, to speak about his role in the St. Louis County Board of Elections and bring voting equipment in order for students to know what it looks like and know how it works.
Jennifer Starkey, the Director of Community Engagement and a member of Webster Votes, was in Public Relations during the 2016 presidential election. Starkey said during her job as a public relations agent, she had a lot of phone calls from media outlets who wondered about the youth vote.
“That’s what connects me to it, a way to get students more engaged in the community and know more about the community they are living in,” Starkey said.
Stewart wants Webster Votes to be active year round, including during non-election years, to keep students informed about the changes in their community. She wants to continue voter engagement after federal elections and not before an election.
“It is important to get people engaged, especially now,” Stewart said. “We have seen in many elections on the importance of taking actions. Voting and not voting can make such a big difference.”