UChicago students lead efforts to encourage early voting

With new art and young volunteers, UChiVotes initiative works to boost voter turnout

Like many students, University of Chicago undergraduate Ime Inyang will be voting for the first time in 2020, a historic election in which young votes may be more important than ever.

“This is the quality of people’s lives on the line,” said Inyang, a first-year. “We need to make sure that we have someone in office who values people’s well-being and doesn’t hurt the needs of one specific group more than others.”

As Election Day nears, the nonpartisan UChiVotes initiative has ramped up its efforts to boost voter turnout on the UChicago campus—mobilizing students like Inyang to make a voting plan, and encouraging the campus community to vote early.

Created by the Institute of Politics in 2018 and led by students, UChiVotes works to combat voter apathy and to help make UChicago one of the top voting campuses in the country. During the midterm elections that same year, 41.5% of eligible UChicago students voted, more than doubling campus turnout during the 2014 midterms.

In the 2016 presidential election, the University saw 50.2% turnout among student voters—a number that UChiVotes has worked to boost this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can do better,” said UChiVotes co-chair Julianna Rossi, a third-year.

The UChiVotes team recently organized get-out-the-vote efforts on campus centered around a moving art installation by renowned artist and alum Jenny Holzer and Vote Early Day 2020, a nationwide information campaign to spread awareness about early voting options.

Holzer, EX’74, collaborated with the University to set up specially-equipped trucks displaying voting-related LED messages submitted by students. Part of her groundbreaking public art commission YOU BE MY ALLY, the trucks stopped by UChicago’s main quad on Oct. 24 as part of a city-wide route, displaying messages such as “Vote for those who cannot” in multicolored lights. The trucks will drive around Chicago again on Oct. 30.

On Oct. 23 and 24, UChiVotes voting ambassadors also spread out across campus as part of a “Push to the Polls” event—setting up informational tables, directing passersby to the early voting sites, and encouraging UChicago students to vote early.

“Voting is the minimum you can do to have a say in what’s going on from a local level,” said fourth-year Aliza Oppenheim, a UChiVotes co-chair.

Early voting, she added, is especially important this year because of changes to mail-in ballot rules in many states.

Visit UChiVotes.com for more information about voting, help finding early voting sites and to volunteer. Early voting runs through Nov. 2. Vote near campus at Ray Elementary School, located at 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., or Fiske Elementary School at 6020 S. Langley Ave.