TurboVote and Engage: How partnerships fuel civic participation

By Anjelica Smith, TurboVote Campus Outreach Lead, Democracy Works

It's 2018. We have countless interactions with screens every day—it only makes sense that we make voter registration opportunities as widely available as possible. In higher education, we know that students go through online checklists and processes on a regular basis (think: student organization registration, data verification, course registration) as a part of their experience. 

That’s why the Democracy Works team couldn’t have been more excited to hear from Ryan O’Connell at Campus Labs. Ryan is a former student government advisor that values the importance of participating in our democracy. Today, in his role as senior product manager for the Engage student engagement web platform, he works closely with campuses to create opportunities for students to participate meaningfully in their college experience. 

As we prepared to host Ryan for a visit to our Brooklyn office, we were ready to pitch him hard on the incredible opportunity to reach more students through Engage. We shouldn’t have broken a sweat; Ryan came in with a plan to build an extension that allows any Engage member campus to activate a pop-up that prompts users to sign up for TurboVote and promote voter engagement at scale to the 400+ Engage member campuses. We were thrilled to discover our goals were shared!

The pop-up window displays for Engage users.

The pop-up window displays for Engage users.

We knew this could be a straightforward and effective implementation opportunity— more than half of TurboVote partner campuses are Campus Labs Engage members. Ryan’s team crafted the feature to automatically attach a referral link to the pop-up so TurboVote partner campuses can learn exactly how many students were reached via Engage. Even schools that aren’t (yet!) TurboVote partners can prompt their students to sign up for election reminders. When we talk about meeting students where they are, this is precisely what we mean.

When I showed my team the college student voter turnout data from 2014 they were shocked and immediately wanted to do something that could help support voter engagement for all future elections; the TurboVote service made it super easy to implement and offers some great options for our member campuses.
— Ryan O’Connell

Emily Giffin and Sara Clark from Democracy Works attended the 2018 Campus Labs Connect conference in June, where Ryan announced the Voter Engagement Extension during a keynote presentation. Ryan, Emily, and Sara presented a lively session featuring data related to political involvement on campus and best practices for voter engagement leading up to the midterm elections.

2018 Campus Labs Connect Conference

2018 Campus Labs Connect Conference

Energy for voter engagement was high post-conference and that trajectory continues. Since its launch, more than 70 campuses have enabled the Voter Engagement Extension within Engage. In just a few weeks, more than 1,000 TurboVote signups have come from the platform and we know that Engage usage is beginning to ramp up as students across the country get ready to kick off the fall semester. 

Learn more about activating the Voter Engagement Extension on your campus, and reach out to us at partnerships@turbovote.org if you have any questions! 

Brandon Naylor