How UChicago students can get involved in the 2020 election

Institute of Politics organizes voter registration efforts, hosts virtual events

This year has seen the spread of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and cost millions more their jobs. It has seen a long-overdue national reckoning over racial equity and social justice. And in less than a month, it will see an election with historic consequences.

As the country prepares to decide on its next president, the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics is working to include students in the process—from boosting turnout at the polls to furthering serious discussion of important policy issues.

“Regardless of your views, these times demand that we engage in the politics that affect our communities and our country, not shy away from complexity or difficult conversations,” IOP director David Axelrod wrote in a recent welcome letter. “Whether you’re working on a campaign, developing policy, covering events as journalists or peacefully protesting on the streets, you’re doing public service. And the Institute of Politics is here to help. We want to equip and inspire you to get into the arena yourself.”

A former adviser to President Barack Obama, Axelrod founded the non-partisan Institute of Politics in 2013 to help UChicago students participate in civic life and explore careers in social and public service.

IOP’s current efforts include UChiVotes, a student-led voter engagement initiative that helped register more than 70% of UChicago undergraduates in 2018. This fall, their campaign not only provides voter registration information—including deadlines and requirements in every state—but also resources for those interested in volunteering as poll workers.

In addition, the institute is hosting debate watch parties through the IOP Slack channel, continuing with the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 and the next presidential debate on Oct. 15.

Here’s a quick look some of the other programs the IOP is organizing this fall:

  • The IOP has gone live with academic-year internships and introduced the latest Pritzker Fellows cohort, which will hold virtual seminars and office hours every week. This year’s fellows include Jelani Cobb, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and political strategists Addisu Demissie and Scott Jennings.
  • A staple of the IOP event calendar is the Speaker Series, which invites leading thinkers to help students explore key political issues. Upcoming guests include Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong (Oct. 7) and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Oct. 23). Axios reporter Alexi McCammond, AB’15, will also speak Oct. 8 as part of a panel of political journalists.
  • To welcome first-years, IOP’s TechTeam has built IOPal—an algorithm that clusters incoming first-years with similar interests as a way to build informal connections. Sign up here if you’re a first-year. Returning student? You can get involved too.
  • What songs evoke patriotism for you? Submit suggestions to Jukebox Ballot: Volume 2, along with an explanation for your pick. IOP is looking for songs that invite conversations about what America is. What America has been. What America can still be. International students should feel free to choose songs related to their own home countries, if they prefer. (You can also listen to last year’s Jukebox Ballot: Volume 1, which includes Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” and Katharine Lee Bates’ “America the Beautiful.”)