Junior Charlie Sturr said WebsterVOTES helped them register to vote their freshman year.
“I think due to WebsterVOTES, students are reminded of how important it is to vote,” Sturr said.
After the effort to encourage student voting in the 2020 election, Webster University has been nationally recognized as a Voter Friendly Campus this month. This recognition comes from Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project, which aims to increase, encourage and normalize student voting.
To encourage student participation, WebsterVOTES enlisted the help of students in events. It hosted many events to get students involved, such as putting up signs to point students in the right direction to a voting poll. WebsterVOTES also notarized absentee ballots and provided resources and information on how to register to vote.
Charlie Sturr, a junior at Webster, participated in an event the night before the 2020 presidential election where they put up signs across campus to help students find polling stations. During their freshman year, they were positively impacted by WebtserVOTES.
“I remember, when I was a freshman, being able to register to vote through WebsterVOTES. It made me feel comfortable as a voter to have an organization on campus able to help me,” Sturr said.
Along with enlisting students, faculty were also involved in WebsterVOTES. Jennifer Stewart, who is Webster’s director of the Office of Student Engagement, works with the group as the lead staff representative. She was in charge of getting the submissions for the Campus Vote Project ready and was the main point of contact between the university and the project.
“In January of 2020 you have to submit your interest in participating in the program and being considered. Once we were accepted for the proposal, we worked throughout the year on establishing a plan, executing the events and submitting the final report,” Stewart said.
Although the process to become a Voter Friendly Campus started in January of 2020, the idea to encourage students to vote at Webster goes back to the 2012 election. WebsterVOTES has been working toward increasing its outreach and increasing its understanding on how to engage students in the voting process.
“For me, it means that we are being recognized for all the hard work that we put in,” Stewart said.
Becoming a Voter Friendly Campus meansWebster is encouraging students to vote, providing students with the resources they will need to vote and being a system of support for students during the voting process overall.
“This is something that is important to us as a campus,” Stewart said.
In 2018, WebsterVOTES became involved with the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). Schools that participate in this are compared to other schools in the study that have students who are voting. The survey lists the number of Webster students who have voted, the percentage of students who voted absentee and the percentage of specific majors who voted.
“We were blown away at how engaged Webster student voters were. Our voter rate is about 56% in the 2018 midterm election. Webster voters were about 20% higher than the national average. And it was even across the board between grads, undergrads, races and ethnicities, all things that they measure,” Stewart said.
Sturr said they thought Webster’s voting percentage was higher than the national average because of initiatives like WebsterVOTES.
“I think due to WebsterVOTES, students are reminded of how important it is to vote. I remember there being booths around campus that were to help students register before the 2020 presidential election,” Sturr said. “With this level of commitment to providing resources to students, I feel like it gives students a support system to vote.”
Being recognized as a Voter Friendly Campus is a title that Webster will have to renew every two years. Stewart explained this is a title that Webster is proud of holding and will work to keep in the future.