This simple checklist will help make sure your vote counts.
WASHINGTON â€“ At Yale and Harvard, students are battling over which university can get the most pledges to vote in next month’s midterms.
And down south, atÂ Morehouse College in Atlanta, the National Urban League is setting up aÂ booth atÂ Saturday’s homecoming game to urge students to vote.
On campuses across the country, from Ivy League schools to historically black colleges and universities, student groups andÂ civic engagement organizations have ramped up efforts to boost voter turnout Nov.Â 6.
The groups have not only expanded those efforts to more campuses,Â but adopted moreÂ creative tactics to woo younger voters. There are “Party at the Poll” events, online pledge challenges, tailgating gatherings andÂ social media campaigns, including hashtags like #RealTerpsRegister.
“The efforts are becoming more widespread, and I think theyâ€™re also unabashedly targeting campuses,â€Â said Nancy Thomas, director of Tuft University’s Center for Civic Engagement and Democracy. â€œWhat has changed, too, is the enormous amount of activism since the 2016 election, literally starting the day after the election.â€
Experts say college campuses have long been targets for candidates and advocacy groups looking to energize young voters. Historically, college students have been an unreliable voting bloc; onlyÂ 20 percent of registered voters ages 18-29 voted in the 2014 midterms.
Thomas said several factors are coming together to create a “perfect positive storm” for increased college voter turnout this election.Â
She said polls and university studies have found that â€œyoung people are more vocal about policy matters than they have been in the past.â€
And she said students’ increased interest in election issues is coinciding with a “burst of energy” from groups launching national get-out-the-vote campaigns.
One effort was in full swing last week here at George Washington University.Â Between classes, some students headed overÂ to a giant mailbox in the center of a plaza â€“ “Party at the Mailbox â€“Â to dropÂ off their absentee ballots.Â Organizers provided students with stamps and envelopes.
“Our research shows that a significant portion of GW students vote by mail, so we wanted to cater to the needs of GW students by providing this specific programming,” said SpencerÂ Dixon, a graduate student.
VoteTogether, which worked with the GW group, alsoÂ plans to host other events across the country aimed at young voters, including 100 on college campuses.Â
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of research that shows if you vote young, you become a continual voter,” said Angie Jean-Marie, director of the nonpartisan group. “So if we can get young people understanding that their voices matter at this time, at this age â€¦ you are setting up folks for years, if not decades, of long-term voting.â€
The goal,Â Jean-Marie said,Â is to make the events celebrations. There areÂ block parties, Halloween-themed events, puppies at the polls and even pig roasts.
â€œWe celebrate 4th of July, we celebrate Memorial Day,” she said. “We celebrate on Labor Day. And yet we donâ€™t celebrate on Election Day.â€
The National Urban League hopes to reach thousands expected at the MorehouseÂ game against Georgia’s Fort Valley State.
Marc Morial, the league’s president, said Georgia and Florida are “fertile” states for attracting young voters.Â
Morial said interest among young people seems to be on the rise in races where history could be made. Democrat Stacey AbramsÂ would becomeÂ the first African-American female governor in the United StatesÂ if she wins. Andrew Gillum, also a Democrat, would be the first African-American governor in Florida.
“Iâ€™m confident that in both of those places,Â young voter turnout and African-American voter turnout is going to be higher than it was in previous midterms,â€ Morial said.
For many college students, the midterms will be the first time they vote. And for those who goÂ out of state for school, it may be hard to navigate unfamiliar voting laws.
Those factors can be an “enormous obstacle,” Thomas said. For college students, convenience isÂ important.
To address concerns, GW Votes, a nonpartisan coalition of students, faculty and staff, has setÂ up computer stations where students can register and get information about stateÂ requirements. Dixon said efforts like this can bring down some of the legal barriers to voting, as well as some of the “perceived barriers around voter education.”
“These are challenges that are not insurmountable,” he said.
Another challenge is motivation.Â A recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute/The Atlantic found young voters are more likely to believe their vote doesn’t matter. OnlyÂ 50Â percent of voters ages 18-29 agreed voting is the “most effective way to create change,”Â compared to 78 percent of voters ages 65 and up.
“If students are not motivated to vote, then they arenâ€™t going to go the extra mile to break down those barriers,” ThomasÂ said.
GW student Miles Kelekian, 19, said he’s heard similar sentiments from friends at home inÂ California.
“Theyâ€™ll say, ‘Why bother voting?’Â ‘When thereâ€™s so many other people, does my vote really matter?'” Kelekian said.Â “It does. Itâ€™s your way to voice your opinion.”
Bridget Anzano, 19, president ofÂ GW’s College Democrats chapter, said many of her peers are spurred to vote by issues.
“Itâ€™s a great way to get people excited about politics,” she said.Â “If you can get them involved in a specific issue, like gun control, then you can get them interested in other issues stemming off of that.”
For Andrea Fernandez Aponte, one issueÂ is the Senate’s confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Earlier this month, Aponte stood outside the U.S. Capitol with friends, protesting Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Vote Them Out,” her sign read.
Aponte, 25, a recent graduate from Georgetown University, also took to Facebook to urge friends to vote.
â€œA lot people seem to be pretty riled up because of whatâ€™s happening … especially students,” she said.Â â€œIt seems like thereâ€™s some good energy (around voting).”
Earlier this month, Every Vote Counts launched its online â€œPledge to Voteâ€™â€™ campaign aimed at young people. Local chapters hosted events at campuses across the country.
â€œThere are lots of studies that show that if someone makes a commitment to vote and pledges to vote, then theyâ€™re more likely to go out and actually vote,â€™â€™ saidÂ Harold Ekeh, 20,Â president of Every Vote Counts and a senior at Yale.
Ekeh’s university is going up against Harvard to see which schoolÂ Â can get the most pledges.
According to Ekeh, the voting rate in 2016 was 57.8 percent at Harvard and 56.7 percent at Yale. Nationally, he said the young voter participation rate was â€œshockingly lowâ€™â€™ â€“ less than 50 percent.
â€œIf those stats arenâ€™t enough to get people out to the polls, than we hope that this initiative and the kind of competition we have between both schools can get people out,â€™â€™ he said.