Guest Blog From MITvote: What is MITvote?
MITvote is a non-partisan student group comprised of both graduate and undergraduate MIT students. The group focuses on all things voting! To learn more, check out this guest blog post from the undergraduate co-chair of MITvote, Kelsey Merrill.
MIT has a civic engagement problem. It’s common knowledge that young people in the United States turn out to vote at the lowest rates of any age group in the country, but on top of that, STEM majors turn out at the lowest rates of all students. In 2016, students in STEM fields had a turnout rate of only 43.6% compared with a rate of 48.3% for all students (NSLV report). And so, as a tech school full of STEM majors ages 18-29, MIT is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to civic engagement. That’s why MITvote exists. MITvote is a non-partisan student group working to increase voter turnout and civic engagement on MIT’s campus.
My name is Kelsey Merrill, and I am the undergrad co-chair of MITvote. When I came to campus in Fall 2018, I was looking for a way to get civically engaged. MITvote fits exactly what I was looking for – a group working for a cause I care about that needed a lot of help! I care so much about voter turnout because voting is the most direct and powerful way the everyday citizen has to influence public policy. While a single vote can feel insignificant in a population of millions, being an active, engaged member of the voting population changes the face of that group and ultimately holds politicians accountable to the aggregate voters’ voice. With higher rates of turnout, our democracy is healthier and more representative of who we are. MITvote made it easy for me to jump in and get involved , and working to increase voter turnout quickly became part of my life at MIT.
MITvote began as part of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), but it became a separate group in 2017 and was recognized by the ASA in 2019. Though we are still young, today MITvote is a busy and active group. We hold registration drives, hold office hours for voting-related questions, provide stamps and envelopes for election mail, run election day events, and maintain a website (check it out at vote.mit.edu). We also work with the GSC to create student-focused voter materials, and we have collaborated with the GSC on activism regarding voting-focused legislation. We maintain that MITvote is strictly non-partisan; however, since voting is a fundamental right, we do believe that the ballot box should be as accessible as possible to everyone. Thus, we have worked with the GSC to advocate at the state level for legislation that would make voting easier, such as Election Day registration and expanded early voting.
MITvote has already made a substantial impact on civic engagement at MIT in our group’s short history. In 2018, voter turnout on MIT’s campus nearly tripled over the 2014 midterms (NSLV report), and in 2019, while most precincts in Cambridge experienced a drop in voter turnout relative to 2017, turnout in the MIT precincts increased. Despite these successes, there is still a long way to go to reach 100% turnout! Going forward, we hope to make voting and civic engagement an institutionalized part of MIT’s culture. If you want to help us out, we would love to have you in MITvote! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.MIT students bring a unique knowledge and background to the issues facing society, and it is important that our generation has our voices heard through participating in the democratic process. The 2020 elections are coming up quickly – make sure you are registered to vote (mit.turbovote.org can help you out), and make sure to take the time to vote on election day. Let’s change the statistics about STEM students and voting!