With the presidential elections fast approaching, MCSG and the Civic Engagement Center (CEC) have invested in a program to increase students’ voter registration and turnout. TurboVote, which MCSG recently voted overwhelmingly to fund, is a website intended to facilitate voter registration for students by streamlining the often complicated process.
The total cost of the program was $1000, with the CEC providing $300 and MCSG covering the remaining $700. Rachel Auerbach ’17, CEC Public Policy Issue Area Coordinator, hopes TurboVote will make getting registered to vote less daunting for members of the Macalester community. One of the program’s features is easing the process of getting absentee ballot applications, which the program provides along with stamped and addressed envelopes. “This tool is especially useful for students who may want to vote in their home state,” Auerbach said in an email.
TurboVote also eases the voting process by sending reminders about important voting dates. “The reminders that TurboVote sends will include information like polling place, voting hours and other practical information that should make voting easy and convenient,” Auerbach said.
Auerbach also stressed that TurboVote is available not only to students, but to all members of the Macalester community, including faculty and staff. Students can also use TurboVote even if they can’t vote in the United States. “Even students who may be ineligible to vote for any reason can sign up for TurboVote if they want to stay informed about upcoming elections.”
MCSG Vice President Colin Casey ’17 emphasized that TurboVote will also be valuable in gathering data about the Macalester community’s voting habits. “MCSG was initially unsure about whether to fund TurboVote. We had no data on voter registration and information or where students vote. TurboVote compiles user data, like where voters register and whether or not they vote,” he said in an email. With this data, MCSG can make more informed decisions in the future about funding programs like TurboVote.
The goal of implementing TurboVote is largely to improve Macalester’s low voter turnout numbers, and to learn how to more effectively mobilize voters. Data collected from the 2012 presidential election show that although 65% of Macalester students registered to vote, only 45% actually voted, well below the national average of 57.5% voter turnout. “So, there is a clear need to increase voter turnout,” Casey said. “With more information, student organizations and student services who aid in the get out the vote effort can better serve the student community.”