Harvard Institute of Politics

Research, Management Consulting, Program Design, Workshops

The challenge

Helping Harvard undergraduate students develop a program to increase voter turnout rates on campus.

The impact

Voter turnout among Harvard students in 2018 was more than double what it was in 2014.

The numbers

  • 26 POINT INCREASE IN VOTER TURNOUT
  • 13 HARVARD SCHOOLS ENGAGED
  • 90 HARVARD COLLEGE VOLUNTEERS

The Institute of Politics (IOP) at the Harvard Kennedy School engaged Impactual to help a small group of undergraduate student leaders conceive, pitch, resource, and implement an initiative to encourage students to vote. The school’s 2014 voter turnout rate (22.4%) could not be sufficiently buoyed by increased undergraduate participation levels alone, so we developed a cohesive plan to reach students across Harvard’s 12 degree-granting schools, plus the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

The student-led plans included an online voter registration prompt when registering for classes; in-person voter registration tables; residence-based organizing; email reminders to vote from the University; and faculty communications around National Voter Registration Day and Election Day.

The students obtained the initial budget for this program from the IOP and affiliated Centers, then successfully pitched Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow for support. In 2018, the voter turnout rate on campus more than doubled to 48%.

With added support from the Harvard University President’s Administrative Innovation Fund, the Harvard Votes Challenge will expand its voter engagement efforts with the goal of 100% voter participation in 2020.

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