Student volunteers host “Virtual Party at the Polls” to turn out the youth vote in the 2020 elections

NJPIRG Students and the campus vote coalition reach thousands of their peers in days before the election day deadline to vote

Press Release

For Immediate Release-

Theresa Zieser, NJPIRG Students Campus Organizer, (609)-638-0470, [email protected]
Manny Rin, Student PIRGs New Voters Project Director, 925-234-1457, [email protected]

New Jersey  NJPIRGs’ New Voters Project, one of the country’s oldest student-led youth voter mobilization groups, organized a final push to help young voters cast their ballot before Election Day. Volunteers from Rutgers University campuses volunteered at a virtual “Party at the Polls” event to call their peers and classmates to make sure they have a plan to vote this election. The massive virtual grassroots effort to register and mobilize students on college campuses this semester culminated in this final surge.

The Party at the Polls event, which was organized by NJPIRG in coordination with New Voters Project student groups in 16 other states, featured hundreds of volunteers,  helping new voters make a plan to vote and navigate any challenges they may encounter when voting for the first time. With election day being tomorrow, many students will have to vote in person. The Student PIRGs published a student guide on how to vote safely in person. Including tips like: dressing for the weather, bringing snacks, and downloading a show to watch on your phone. 

Media interested in observing the final day of the Party at the Polls on Tuesday November 3rd from 8am-8pm either locally or nationwide can RSVP here for the video link. Student organizers will be available for interviews.

“We are the next generation of leaders. It is important that we use our platforms to seek equity, create change and spread awareness,” said Ezenezie V. Eze, the Vice President of the Black Student Union at Rutgers New Brunswick during the Monday event, “that’s why I’m here to encourage everyone here to keep calling your friends to make sure we all vote!”

Despite challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 100 student interns and volunteers from college campuses across NJ worked to turn out the youth vote this semester. Activities have shifted from clipboards to Google docs; and from holding signs at in-person rallies to speaking in front of virtual backgrounds on Zoom calls. 

Jessica Ronan, the Program Coordinator for the Center for Youth Political Participation at the Eagleton Institute of Politics out of Rutgers New Brunswick addressed the volunteers on Monday, “Asking your friends and peers whether they are ready to cast their ballot signals the importance young people can make on electing individuals who represent values and opinions of younger generations.”

While on campus efforts looked different, the importance of peer-to-peer work remained impactful. As of Monday evening, NJPIRG student volunteers had talked to a total of 1300 students over the phone and sent over 14,000 vote-related text messages within 10 days of Election Day.

“Young people have the opportunity to make our voices heard in our democracy, but only if we vote,” said Nila Manners, Rutgers New Brunswick class of ‘22 and NJPIRG’s New Voters Project Campaign Coordinator, “It is fulfilling to know that someone will vote because of the plan I helped them make. I’m even more encouraged by the thousands of conversations and contacts that we’re making together as a team.”

Recent data shows that in a number of states, early voting rates exceed rates at the same point in 2016. While many factors contribute to this drastic increase in youth voting, the organizing work of student organizers, faculty, and campus organizations should not be overlooked. 

“Nationally, I am encouraged to see so many young people voting early and the work NJPIRG student leaders and our partners in New Jersey contributed to that effort.” said Manny Rin, New Voters Project Director, “After the election the work continues to make sure the youth voice is heard. Our student leaders will continue working with their campuses to ensure voting is a part of the fabric of their institutions and not just an effort that gets attention every 4 years.”

“Seeing young adults, and particularly college students, voting and helping to get out the vote is an indication that they are invested in their future and want to have a voice regarding political leadership and public policies.” said Elizabeth O’Connell Ganges,  Director of Student Success Initiatives at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, “They are showing others that actions now can make a difference today, tomorrow, and in the years to come. Time moves by quickly and complacency can have unintended consequences.”

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The Student PIRGs voter registration and turnout effort is part of its New Voters Project campaign, one of the largest nonpartisan youth voter mobilization efforts in the country. The Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project has run peer-to-peer student voter mobilization drives to turn out the youth vote on college campuses for more than 30 years. Its philosophy is that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. The New Voters Project does not endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, a political candidate or political party for elected office.

Founded in 2012, National Voter Registration Day is designed to create an annual moment when the entire nation focuses on registering Americans to exercise their most basic right—the right to vote. Nearly 3 million Americans have registered to vote on the holiday since the inaugural National Voter Registration Day in 2012.