Turbo Vote simplifies voting registry for college students

It’s a component of democracy impossibly imagined by our Founding Fathers and it’s taking flight on Castleton’s campus.

TurboVote, a part of the nonprofit and nonpartisan group Democracy Works, is an opportunity for all eligible citizens to register to vote online. The site registers in-state and out-of-state voters and sends reminders to those registered to turn out to the polls.

“TurboVote is an awesome online resource,” said Castleton’s co-coordinator Liz Diohep. “The best part about it is it takes less than five minutes.”

Castleton’s branch of TurboVote is overseen by political science professor Rich Clark and managed by Diohep and Mariah O’Hara with assistance from Clark’s Campaigns and Elections class.

According to Diohep and O’Hara, although it is not a presidential election year, the results of the state and local elections still have an inherent affect of national and international issues.

“I think college students are often pushed aside with these elections, but we do play a big part,” said O’Hara.

Despite the trend for voter turnout to be lower in off-year elections, Diohep and O’Hara said they hope TurboVote will help Castleton break the mold.

“My goal is really to promote the idea that even though it’s midterm elections, it’s still very important to register and vote,” said Diohep.

This was supported by Clark, who also added the latter part of this goal is what has the potential to influence policy.

Despite having the one of the highest number of registered voters in the county, combined with characteristics of being old, established, and well-educated, which are typically found in places experiencing high voter turnout rates, Castleton’s polling place did not see the expected traffic in past elections.

According to data collected after the 2012 elections, Castleton had a 57 percent voter turnout rate, the second lowest in Rutland County. Clark inferred these results to be a product of the college’s increased initiative to register student voters combined with a lack of reminders to go to the polls come Election Day.

“We gave them access, but no invitation,” he said. “With TurboVote, maybe we can change that.”

Clark, Diohep and O’Hara said they plan to continue to help both on and off-campus students register with TurboVote through the Oct. 29 cut-off date for Vermont registration. The trio plans to set up tables in the Campus Center and send out campus-wide emails to raise awareness about TurboVote. Additionally, students can access Castleton’s branch of TurboVote using the hyperlink: http://tvote.org/1CtnDkT.

The group said TurboVote’s reminders are expected to increase the voter turnout on Nov. 4.

Mirroring the restless world of politics, Clark said he plans to begin registering for the 2016 election immediately after this year’s polls close. Already on his docket for TurboVote in 2016 is the Nov. 11 Civic Engagement Project Presentations event in the Informal Lounge of the Campus Center.

“It’s never too early to register,” he said.


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