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Students mobilize future voters virtually during pandemic

Posted at 3:20 PM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 15:20:14-05

Young people are notorious for skipping elections, and it's a problem voting advocates have tried solving for decades.

This year, they had a big uphill battle, mobilizing future voters virtually.

“Pre-pandemic, you and I would probably be interviewing in this beautiful student union of ours," said Armando Sepulveda II. “We would have candidates talking to students, meeting students.”

A senior at San Diego State University, Sepulveda is Rock the Vote Chair at his school, working on getting as many students as possible registered to vote.

“We were going into the dark because we didn’t have any pre-context of how we could handle a Rock the Vote campaign during a pandemic," said Sepulveda.

They couldn’t hold large gatherings to register students to vote or hold candidate debates in auditoriums. On-campus posters were replaced with posts online.

“We acknowledged that social media was a great platform to get apathetic students because regardless of what they’re doing during the day, they’re probably going to log onto Instagram at least once or twice," said Sepulveda.

To keep students from scrolling past their message, Sepulveda's team focused on design, creating easy-to-read, digestible content.

“We wanted to make it as simple and visually interesting as possible," he said.

They conducted "Zoom-arounds," crashing club meetings to talk about propositions, how to get your ballot and making sure it’s counted. They also held community forums online with local candidates.

“I think a lot of young people want to have a renewed sense in trust in the government, but in order to have that, you have to have people you trust elected," said Sepulveda.

Sepulveda says after combining California and out-of-state students, they surpassed their goal of registering 1,400 students to vote.

Researchers at Tufts University say youth turnout is surging in many states. More than 7 million young people have already voted early or absentee this election.