The timing of the partnership between the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) and TurboVote couldn’t be better as the voter registration deadline for the Florida primary is today.
Although the primary isn’t until March 17, students have until the end of the day to register and lock in their party affiliation if they haven’t already.
As part of a grant program provided to Democracy Works and the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) by a private benefactor, USF was selected to be a pilot institution to receive access to TurboVote, an online tool that facilitates voter registration.
The three-year contract will provide USF access to the TurboVote platform as well as assistance from IDHE and Democracy Works’ staff. The total cost of the contract was $1,000, according to the Director of CLCE, Mike Severy.
USF and New College of Florida were the only two institutions picked to be a part of the grant program.
After only one week of the service being launched,100 students registered to vote through TurboVote.
Severy said he believes USF was selected because of its size and enrollment of Hillsborough County residents, as it tends to be one of the counties in Florida that can potentially sway how the overall state votes.
In addition to the assistance, IDHE and Democracy Works’ staff will offer workshops and guidance on how to use TurboVote as well as gather data for national studies on voter engagement. Students can opt out of having their data collected and released.
“The intent is to make [voting] easier and to help our electorate and, in particular, our students who are in the electorate who go out and vote, become more informed,” Severy said. “It also fits within the CLCE because it’s part of the active citizen’s continuum.
Embedded into BullSync, students will be able to register to vote as well as receive reminders on future elections in TurboVote.
“It would be great to get the reminder that I’ve got an election coming up, you know, in a week, two weeks, however long it may be, so I can be more informed and find out what the heck I’m going to vote about,” Severy said. “I’ve missed elections because I’m not necessarily always paying attention.”
Under the grant program, USF was provided its own TurboVote page, which allows it to engage with students throughout the semester on events happening on campus related to democratic engagement.
“It’s a nice way to communicate with students quickly in spaces that they’re already in about opportunities to enhance their civic engagement and increase engagement as it relates to voter registration and education,” Severy said.
As part of Student Body President Britney Deas and Student Body Vice President Travis McCloskey’s platform, Bull S.H.I.F.T., — Success, Health, Innovation, Finance and Tradition — Deas said implementing TurboVote on campus was one step closer to bringing automatic voter registration to USF.
“Our main goal was just to work toward eventually having automatic voter registration and with the implementation of TurboVote with the CLCE, it’s like opening the door toward making that a reality,” Deas said. “With anything, you would want a program to be opt-in and not opt-out because you want to give students a choice to make that decision on their own of whether or not they would like to be in the registration for voting or have the voter registration.”
Despite the grant being from a private benefactor, Severy said that TurboVote is a nonpartisan platform.
“Democratic engagement, specifically voting, is habit-forming,” Severy said. “And so, people that vote tend to be repeat voters.
“Having access to TurboVote and those resources will help expedite the opportunity for students to go out and vote in their local elections.”
For the Presidential Preference Primary on March 17, early voting will open March 2. Primary elections for state and local offices are on Aug. 18, with early voting starting Aug. 3. The 2020 Presidential Election Day is Nov. 3.