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U. works with TurboVote to expedite voter registration

Students can register to vote in R.I. or home states through website’s five-minute process

A year after the Undergraduate Council of Students announced its intention to revamp the voter registration process on campus, the University entered into a contract with TurboVote, an online tool that facilitates voter registration, this summer.

TurboVote now allows students to register to vote in any state in under five minutes on the University’s own TurboVote website, said Elena Saltzman ’16, chair of academic and administrative affairs for UCS.

Students, who interned with the website in 2013, approached UCS with the idea of adopting TurboVote, said Maahika Srinivasan, president of UCS. After verifying with the Student Activities Office, the University decided to invest in TurboVote using UCS’s budget, Srinivasan said.

Before the University’s contract with TurboVote, only students from Rhode Island could register on campus and had to pick up paper forms from the Secretary of State’s office, which then had to be mailed back to the office.

“Before, we could only register students in Rhode Island, because we couldn’t carry 50 state registration forms,” Saltzman said.

Students who wanted to register as absentee voters for their home states previously had to request absentee ballot forms from their states, fill these forms out and mail them back to the states. Students then waited to receive their ballot, which they ultimately sent back to their respective states with their vote.

The implementation of TurboVote also allows student organizations, including the Brown Democrats, Brown Republicans and Common Sense Action, to better reach their registration goals.

“TurboVote is really exciting for those of us who do voter registration on campus because it makes it a one-stop shop,” said Meghan Holloway ’16, president of the Brown Democrats.

Voter registration is an important “bipartisan cause,” said Justin Braga ’16, president of Brown Republicans, adding that he’s hopeful the new system will allow more students on campus “to participate in the democratic process.”

TurboVote not only expedites the registration process but also helps students in the voting process itself, Salzman said. The TurboVote website mails students a paper ballot and sends reminders to students about the deadlines for absentee voting through its alerts feature, which incorporates text messages and emails, she added.

One additional perk is that Brown pays for all the ballot delivery fees, Saltzman said.

Campus organizations have been working to register students to vote since orientation. Though the deadline for the Rhode Island primaries was Aug. 9, these groups said they hope to have as many students as possible ready to vote in the general elections. The deadline for registering for the November elections is Oct. 5.

“UCS sent unique links to all the groups using TurboVote so they can track their own progress in terms of voter registration,” Srinivasan said.

Since orientation, the Brown Democrats have registered almost 200 students to vote, Salzman said. Forty percent of these students registered to vote in Rhode Island, she added.


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