Students Honored for Voter Registration Drives on Campus and in the Mosby Court Community

Students Honored for Voter Registration Drives on Campus and in the Mosby Court Community
Journalism students Alexandra Hines and Caitlin Puffenberger received a statewide Democracy Cup award on Feb. 16 for their turn-out-the-vote efforts at VCU during the 2012 presidential election. They were part of a VCU honors class recognized by the Campus Election Engagement Project.  Photos provided by Jeff South, associate professor in the School of Mass Communications
Journalism students Alexandra Hines and Caitlin Puffenberger received a statewide Democracy Cup award on Feb. 16 for their turn-out-the-vote efforts at VCU during the 2012 presidential election. They were part of a VCU honors class recognized by the Campus Election Engagement Project. Photos provided by Jeff South, associate professor in the School of Mass Communications

A VCU voter registration campaign last fall received a Democracy Cup award and was recognized as the best communication campaign in Virginia by the Campus Election Engagement Project during a luncheon at the College of William and Mary on Feb. 16.

VCU’s entry reflected the work of 15 honors journalism students in the School of Mass Communications “Social Media and Presidential Race” course. The students conducted an extensive turn-out-the-vote campaign on campus. The entry also highlighted a similar effort by students in the ASPiRE program to organize a voter drive in Richmond’s Mosby Court community.

The entry incorporated the efforts of numerous campus groups, especially the “Ram The Vote” coalition, and individual students and faculty members in registering and informing voters on campus and beyond.
 
The entry showed that the number of votes cast in the four polling precincts that include VCU residence halls and other student housing increased 45 percent from the 2008 presidential election to the 2012 election.

The “VCU Votes” campaign was guided by School of Mass Communications faculty members Jeff South and Marcus Messner and was supported through Campus Election Engagement Project grant funding secured by Jacqueline Smith-Mason, assistant dean of the VCU Honors College. Students in the honors class developed the “VCU Votes” social media campaign last fall and created an “Uncle Ram” logo as the campaign’s brand.

The journalism class developed nonpartisan handouts comparing policy positions and created posters and an interactive Google Map showing where VCU dormitory residents and other students were assigned to vote.

Students and faculty from the “VCU votes” and ASPiRE election campaigns celebrate their award together.
Students and faculty from the “VCU votes” and ASPiRE election campaigns celebrate their award together.

The students also recorded and posted online interviews with students, faculty members and administrators on why it’s important to vote and staffed a table in the University Student Commons for one week in October to register students, distribute informational materials about the candidates and voting procedures, and publicize the online efforts.

On Election Day, the students also interviewed voters as they cast ballots and provided coverage from candidates’ election parties.

Students in the ASPiRE election campaign collaborated with community leaders to boost voter registration at Mosby Court, a public housing development with more than 500 voting-age residents and a traditionally low voter turnout.

The Mosby community representatives, who are participating in a leadership program funded through a grant awarded by VCU’s Council for Community Engagement, had decided earlier in the fall to organize a “get-out-the-vote” effort at Mosby.

“When the leadership participants learned of the efforts of the ASPiRE students, they asked the students to partner with them on their get-out-the-vote effort,” said Nannette A. Bailey, community partnerships coordinator for VCU ASPiRE. “Given that the ASPiRE students were already trusted partners in the Mosby community and that they fully understood the need to ensure informed and increased participation in the election process, they said yes and so a wonderful collaborative effort was born.”

The students focused on registering Mosby residents to vote and coordinating free transportation to take residents to the polls on Election Day.

The ASPiRE program is part of the VCU Division of Community Engagement and the School of Mass Communications is part of the College of Humanities and Sciences.

The Campus Election Engagement Project worked with more than 750 colleges and universities nationwide to engage their campuses and communities in the 2012 election.  

Mary Baldwin College, George Mason University and Virginia Wesleyan College were also recognized with Democracy Cup awards and the College of William and Mary received an honorable mention.


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