Following the November midterm elections, Penn Leads the Vote is now looking ahead to the Georgia runoff election in December.
PLTV, a nonpartisan political group on campus, has been active in its efforts to bolster student voter turnout in the midterm elections. The group is now using its presence on campus and social media to facilitate continued voter registration and education, particularly for students registered to vote in Georgia ahead of the state's upcoming runoff election on Dec. 6.
PLTV Director and College senior Nicholas Williams said that though students cast 2,239 ballots at on-campus polling locations, Penn students used a variety of methods to vote in the midterms earlier this month.
“We counted from all the on-campus polling places, and over 2,000 students voted in on-campus polling places, which is really great to see. And that’s in person at polling places,” he said. “We know that many more students have voted by mail, voted at off-campus precincts, voted in their home state.”
Wharton senior Tvisha Malik, a tabling coordinator for PLTV, said she was responsible for running voter registration events, coordinating volunteers, and overseeing Election Day logistics for PLTV. Malik said that she, like Williams, was excited to see high student voter turnout in the recent midterm elections.
“I think that a big part of campus turnout is voter education effort,” she said. “A lot of students don't realize that they can vote in the state that they attend university.”
To address this, PLTV led continuous voter registration efforts leading up to the election, including a tabling event on National Voter Registration Day. The organization registered 113 people to vote in advance of the midterms.
“We definitely saw a lot of interest in volunteering to help other students vote,” Malik said.
The University was recognized on Nov. 16 as an ALL IN Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting. Penn is one of 394 campuses out of thousands of colleges and universities across the United States to receive the award, Williams said.
Cory Bowman, associate director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, said that Penn has received five ALL IN awards since 2018. Bowman said these awards "recognize the commitment to both community engagement and voting" of both PLTV student leaders and the general Penn student body. Former University President Amy Gutmann also signed a commitment in 2021 to reach 100% student voter turnout by 2028.
Williams said that the recognition is reflective of the political involvement that he has seen on campus in recent years.
“I think voting political and civic engagement has seen a renewed importance,” he said.
Williams added that the group is now shifting its focus to the upcoming Georgia runoff election.
Because neither candidate for the U.S. Senate seat received a majority of votes, Georgians will return to the polls on Dec. 6 to decide between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Republican candidate Herschel Walker. PLTV sent out an email to its listserv of over 3,000 people on Nov. 14 encouraging Georgia-registered voters to stay engaged through the next month as they anticipate the runoff.
Williams explained that students may only vote in the runoff if they were already registered in Georgia prior to Election Day, so any Penn students from Georgia who voted in Philadelphia on Nov. 8 are not eligible to vote on Dec. 6.
Although PLTV does not have access to a comprehensive list of Georgia-registered Penn students, Williams said that the group has been using "email blasts," social media, and word of mouth to spread the word about the runoff election. Malik said that PLTV provides voting resources like stamps to ensure that mail-in ballots are properly filled out so that they have a decreased risk of being rejected.
“We're trying to cast a really wide net and make ourselves helpful to anyone who wants to [vote] in that election,” Malik said.
Williams also said that PLTV works to continue its partnerships with various organizations across campus between elections cycles. These include each of Penn’s college houses, which Malik said were very helpful in encouraging students to register to vote in this election.
Looking ahead, Williams said that PLTV is planning to hold one more voter registration drive this semester for students who might have realized too late that they missed the registration deadline for the 2022 midterms.
Williams said that he hopes PLTV is able to help students become “lifelong voters,” and that students understand that their vote does make a difference.
“You're not just voting for yourself,” Malik said. “You're also voting for the version of the country that you think other people should live in.”