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2022 Annual Report

Dear friends,

We founded the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition in 2016 on the belief that students – and young people more broadly – were ready to transform our democracy for the better. While it didn’t begin in 2022, that transformation was more apparent than ever over the past year, and its impact is both profound and growing. 

The most visible example took place at November’s midterm elections, which saw the second-highest youth voter turnout of any midterm in the last 30 years, at 27%, with Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) estimating that nearly 90% of young voters in 2022 had some college experience. Following historic turnout gains in 2018 and 2020, it appears that college students yet again were a driving force behind high election turnout that is quickly becoming the new normal. And while a growing divide between college and non-college youth voting rates is not ideal, it also indicates that colleges and universities are extremely effective at fostering democratic participation among their students – something we’ve long believed and worked to foster. 

In fact, over the past year we saw several exciting new areas of progress:

More colleges and universities than ever are participating in national programs that support local campus leaders.

This fall more than 600 colleges and universities celebrated at least one of the four Civic Holidays (National Voter Registration Day, National Voter Education Week, Vote Early Day, and Election Hero Day) through Campus Takeover, a nationwide program led by the SLSV Coalition and our partner, the Alliance for Youth Organizing. And throughout 2022 more than 300 campuses participated in the Ask Every Student (“AES”) initiative, which is the most advanced program to date for integrating voter registration into campus life. 

Even more exciting are the creative ways in which campuses are taking advantage of these programs. This fall’s Campus Takeover celebrations included everything from community carnivals to “puppy to the polls” events that partnered with local animal shelters to bring a little extra cuteness to the registration and voting processes. And thanks to the AES Toolkit 2.0, participating AES campuses now have the most advanced set of codesigned resources in existence for incorporating student voter registration into classes, student orientation, online student portals, and a variety of other key touchpoints between students and their institutions of higher learning. 

The US Department of Education took tangible steps to support the student vote.

After years of encouraging the Executive branch to support campuses in fulfilling their obligations under the Higher Education Act to make a good-faith effort to support voter registration, the US Department of Education came through in 2022, sending a Dear Colleague letter to every college and university in the US reminding them of their obligations under the law, and offering guidance on using federal work-study funds to support student voter registration. The letter gave real backing to staff members throughout the country seeking support for student voter engagement efforts. It was just one of several ways that ED supported our work, which also included a keynote address by US Assistant Secretary of Education Dr. Nasser Paydar at our annual Post-Election Gathering, and collaboration on a forthcoming student voting toolkit to be issued by the Department of Education. 

The Student Vote Research Network was launched and began an unprecedented effort to bolster rigorous academic research on student voting.

In collaboration with our partners the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, the Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project, Scholar Strategy Network, Menlo College, the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, and the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, this March we brought together scholars, students, advocacy organizations, and community practitioners to create a first-of-its kind space to co-create usable knowledge in an effort to grow college student voter engagement through research and programming. This space – the Student Vote Research Network (“SVRN”) – is bridging the gap between practitioners and scholars in order to better quantify our Coalition’s work, demonstrating its impact while challenging long-held assumptions. 

The SVRN has already gained hundreds of subscribers to its substack, which features content authored by some of the leading minds in the nonpartisan student voting space, and publishes a quarterly State of the Student Vote report with the latest developments regarding the three fundamental questions SVRN seeks to address: “How do we strengthen grassroots leadership at every college and university?”, “How do we identify the most impactful tactics?” and “How does everyone else, especially local election officials, help grassroots campus leaders succeed in moving towards full participation?”

A common thread through each of these exciting developments is the strength of the Coalition working to make them happen. Everything we do as an organization, and as a movement, is bolstered by our sustained and growing Coalition of national, state, and local partners, all collaborating for common purpose. 

In 2022 we saw, yet again, the enormous impact we can make together. We can’t wait to build on that in 2023. 

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Clarissa Unger
Co-Founder and Executive Director, SLSV Coalition

Broadening our reach

This year we continued to build a stronger, more diverse Coalition.

Through intentional engagement and dynamic programming, we found ways to center students and institutions historically underrepresented in our democracy. We emphasized outreach to minority-serving institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, and community colleges, deepening our collaborations with these institutions while uplifting the work and voices of the leaders doing great work on their campuses.

25 new Coalition partners!

101 campuses recruited to participate in democratic engagement action planning programs in collaboration with ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and Campus Vote Project.

$208,000 in funding distributed to campuses through the Ask Every Student initiative. 61% of which went to CC’s, MSI’s, or high-need campuses!

614 campuses recruited to participate in Campus Takeover 2022 – including 212 minority-serving institutions and 233 community colleges!

Campus Takeover of Vote Early Day at University of Texas, San Antonio

“The more diverse our vote, the more representative our democracy is, and the more it reflects the values of the individuals, who live in those communities. And that’s especially true for community colleges.”

Natalie Sobrinski, Northampton Community College

Leading through collaboration

We found new ways to support our partners with the research, resources, and connections necessary to continue growing the #StudentVote movement.

Circadium School of Circus Arts at PhillyVotes' Vote Early Day Celebration

Launched in April, the Student Vote Research Network provided a first-of-its-kind space for scholars and practitioners to collaborate and determine the most impactful tactics for growing the student vote, how to strengthen our movement’s grassroots leadership, and how outside stakeholders can support those efforts.

$75,000 in research grants distributed to five different research projects.

24 different articles from leading practitioners and scholars published using the Student Vote Research Network Substack

The Ask Every Student Codesigner Cohort, comprised of 24 individuals representing 20 campuses with diverse contexts (including 5 MSIs and HBCUs and 5 community colleges), developed the AES Toolkit 2.0, the most advanced and campus-centered set of resources to date dedicated to student voter registration efforts on college campuses.MSIs and HBCUs, and 5 community colleges

The Resources & Support Subcommittee produced and conducted trainings on four resources that each facilitate core aspects of growing the #StudentVote.

This resource makes it easier for students to understand their state’s primary elections so they can make their voice heard!

A self-paced online course built for students who want to engage their peers in nonpartisan voter registration and civic action.

This resource makes it easier for students to understand their state’s primary elections so they can make their voice heard!

Helps users strategically determine which partners to bring into your campus voting coalition and develop an outreach plans.

At the 2022 Post-Election Gathering, more than 100 Coalition partners representing dozens of organizations and college campuses came together to build critical connections in the nonpartisan student voting space, share resources and ideas, and lay out a vision for 2023.

Assistant US Secretary of Education Dr. Nasser H. Paydar and White House Senior Advisor Hannah Bristol led keynote sessions.

The 2022 SLSV Award Ceremony recognized local, state, national, and campus-level partners for excellence and innovation in growing the Student Vote.

Post-Election Gathering participants took part in an interactive goal-setting session, led by the SLSV team, to determine priorities for 2023. 

Celebrating the vote

Campus Takeover of National Voter Registration Day at Clark Atlanta University

614 campuses mobilized for Campus Takeover, including 212 MSI’s and 233 CC’s

$50,000  was distributed through minigrants

Hundreds of college campuses and hundreds of thousands of voters celebrated our country’s democracy in pursuit of an America where everyone votes.

Together with our partners at the Alliance for Youth Organizing, the SLSV Coalition led the largest-ever Campus Takeover of the Civic Holidays. In 2022, more than 600 college campuses hosted celebrations, helping thousands of students and their communities get #VoteReady.

As National Voter Education Week’s Managing Partner, the SLSV Coalition helped NVEW expand its reach to new levels, inspiring action by tens of thousands of voters and, thanks to our partners at Poder LatinX and APIA Vote, distributing resources and toolkits in seven non-english languages.

#VoteReady educational graphic in Chinese

In the second year of the civicholidays.org webpage and joint sign-up form, more than 700 participants used the resource to more seamlessly celebrate multiple civic holidays.

“The more diverse our vote, the more representative our democracy is, and the more it reflects the values of the individuals, who live in those communities. And that’s especially true for community colleges.”

Natalie Sobrinski, Northampton Community College

Pizza with the Polls and Engage Miami partnered for Miami Dade College's Vote Early Day festivities

rising in stature

The SLSV Coalition and our partners continued to deepen collaboration with the White House and the U.S. Department of Education.

Following the 2021 release of an Executive Order on Voting Access, 2022 saw tangible steps taken by the federal government to fulfill its commitment to supporting student voter access. 

Campus Takeover of National Voter Registration Day at Salem State University

In April, the Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter – the first of its kind since 2013 – that reminded all institutions of higher learning of their obligations under the Higher Education Act to distribute voter registration materials to their students. 

In October, the SLSV Coalition co-hosted a Department of Education briefing on student voting access, along with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. At the briefing, US Assistant Secretary of for Postsecondary Education Nasser Paydar and US Department of Education Undersecretary James Kvaal spoke to how students and their institutions can strengthen democracy by participating in elections and stepping up as civic leaders. 

SLSV and the Education  Department are collaborating on a forthcoming student voting toolkit, to be issued by the US Department of Education.

Writing a new story

Our story of success is only just beginning!

Following two federal elections with historic student voter turnout, 2022 marked a chance to solidify students as a powerful voting bloc, both at the polls and in the eyes of the public. To lend context to this extraordinary growth – and celebrate the people responsible for it – we crafted the #StudentVote Story of Success, told through the words and perspectives of the people who built it. 

That story continued this year as young voters made an enormous impact in the 2022 midterm elections, and prominent media outlets covered the rising tide of the student vote.