SUNY Oswego class building campaign from the ground up
A group of students at SUNY Oswego has spent the semester registering their peers to vote ahead of New York's registration deadline today. But the registration drive is only part of a larger campaign classroom experience.
Outside the Mackin Dining Center on the campus of SUNY Oswego, students file into a line while they wait to place an order. Student Mikael Pelkey guides some of them like Kwaniah Little through the absentee ballot form.
Pelkey is enrolled in Vote Oswego, a class that is registering students to vote in the November 8 election. But professor Allison Rank says this is far more than the average get out of the vote initiative.
"My intention in running it as Vote Oswego, as opposed to sort of just picking up the Rock the Vote and then having it be a regular elections class where also students have to volunteer to register students, this is a real, from the ground up you are running a campaign," Rank said.
Rank's class is designed to model a nonpartisan campaign. The students have had to work with a budget, plan attention-getting events to maximize their voter registration drives and recruit a group of volunteers to help them with the effort.
"The students have decided on what slogans we use, on what our campaign materials look like and what our visibility is," Rank said. "I think that there is an ethos in a lot of the registrations for young people that’s about organizing students and not teaching students how to be organizers. With a nonpartisan voter registration drive, there's opportunity for students to take leadership roles they couldn’t in a regular campaign."
Student Angela Tylock is in charge of data analysis.
"There’s a lot of behind the scenes work in running a campaign that I don’t think I understood before this class," Tylock said.
The class plans to help those with absentee ballots send them on time. They are also planning on drafting voter guides for the counties with the most absentee ballot requests. After the election is over, they will review their methods and performance. But Rank says the project is already a success. They have registered and ordered absentee ballots for 2,000 students, 700 more students than SUNY Oswego accomplished in 2012.