How Harvard Faculty can join Harvard Votes Challenge

The Harvard Votes Challenge (HVC) is a non-partisan, university-wide effort that is challenging each of Harvard’s twelve degree-granting schools to increase voter registration and participation among eligible students on their respective campuses. The HVC is organized by students and staff at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School.

In 2014, Harvard University’s voter participation rate among our eligible citizen enrolled student population was a disappointing 23.6%. We aim to change that in 2018. To do so, we need to:

  • Make it easy for our students to register to vote;  
  • Provide ample reminders about upcoming registration and voting deadlines;
  • Create a fun, inspired culture of voter participation across the university.

The Harvard Votes Challenge is asking each school to integrate voter registration into its orientation and course registration procedures; support students’ peer-to-peer organizing efforts; communicate the school’s commitment to increasing voter registration to students, faculty, and staff; promote Harvard Votes Challenge university-wide programming; and designate resources in support of these efforts as necessary.

The four major days of action, which may differ by school, include:

  • National Voter Registration Day, September 25
  • Request Your Ballot Day, October 9
  • Submit Your Ballot Day, October 23
  • Election Day, November 6

We are asking faculty to:

  • Promote voting and voter registration in the classroom;
  • Support Harvard Votes Challenge events and activities on campus;
  • Share the Turbovote link and platform with students.

Examples of Potential Faculty-Led Activities:

  1. Projecting a slide from our slides template about Harvard Votes Challenge voting link in their course and spending several minutes inviting people to register and vote.  Invite people to go on TurboVote website on their phone or laptop.
  2. Putting a Link to HVC on the course website canvas page and their department webpage
  3. Professors and Teaching Fellows adding a HVC signature to their email
  4. Making plugs for HVC at campus related events they participate in (panels, convenings, open houses, department meetings etc.)
  5. Sending along HVC promotion to fellow faculty members and email listservs
  6. Inter-Faculty competitions
  7. 1-2 minutes video promotions, written pieces and social media posts

Studies show that classroom-based voter registration promotion can have a significant impact on student voter turnout. Your collaboration will be invaluable in transforming the civic culture around voting at Harvard.

Talking points

  • President Bacow recently championed a renewed commitment to civic engagement at Harvard. It is our belief that this leadership begins with voting. We see the Harvard Votes Challenge as a vital tool through which Harvard can achieve this essential part of its mission.
  • Due to the low-turnout nature of midterm elections and the challenges students associate with voting, a University-wide effort is needed to sufficiently energize student voters and create a permanent culture of civic participation at the university.
  • To foster this new culture, the Harvard Votes Challenge will host several voting celebrations that will be open to the entire Harvard community. Large scale, university-wide events will bring connect students from across the different campuses, creating a sense of school unity for the initiative; small scale, campus centric events will ensure that all students from across the different campuses and diverse student bodies are being adequately reached..
  • The Institute of Politics has purchased an account with TurboVote, an online platform that helps users register to vote, request an absentee ballot, or update an address. The Institute of Politics is willing to share its TurboVote account with the entire university to facilitate voter registration efforts.
  • The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) is the leading organization that measures voter registration and turnout rates on university campuses. NSLVE reports these figures on a university-basis, so efforts to increase voter registration and turnout rates serves the entire university in highlighting Harvard’s leadership on this issue.

Harvard Votes Challenge (HVC) Contact Information


  • HVC Coordinator, Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics: Rob Watson,
  • HVC Student Co-Chair of University-Wide Programming, Harvard Kennedy School: Derek Paulhus,