Indicators like primary turnout and high levels of early voting already show that the midterm elections, just days away, could have the highest voter turnout in 50 years for a non-presidential election. And the participation of young people, which has failed to materialize in recent past elections, could be key.
MitzVote, Hillel International’s non-partisan campaign to register first-time voters on college campuses across the United States is part of the effort to increase civic engagement among young adults. The campaign kicked off with a social media video starring popular actors and comedians, including Joshua Malina, Lisa Edelstein, Odeya Rush, Michael Ian Black, Tim Meadows and HQ Trivia host Scott Rogowsky. Mimicking a bat mitzvah “mazel tov” video, friends and family in the video congratulate Hannah, a typical first-year college student, on her MitzVote.
“Long before American democracy was born, Jews have been celebrating their b’nai mitzvah,” said Sheila Katz, vice president for student engagement and leadership at Hillel International. “This campaign is creating a meaningful coming-of-age experience for all Americans who turn 18 and are eligible to vote.”
In the course of a little over a month, Hillel International’s MitzVote voter registration tool has engaged more than 15,000 students through TurboVote, which helps individuals register to vote, request an absentee ballot, change their address, find their polling place or sign up for text alerts about future elections. In addition, campus Hillels have hosted voter registration drives, events and parties to engage nearly 700,000 students both on the ground and through social media.
Since the launch of MitzVote, an unprecedented coalition of more than 70 campus Hillels and 25 national partner organizations, including MTV, Democracy Works, ADL, the Union for Reform Judaism, AJC, BBYO and more, have worked to improve voter turnout for Jewish college students.
MitzVote is currently in its final phase: get-out-the-vote! More than 50 campus Hillels are hosting or co-sponsoring b’nai mitzvah-style parties at the polls for in-person voting and for students voting by mail to send off absentee ballots together. These poll parties are proven to increase voter turnout by 4 percent. “Only the data will show whether or not young people turn out to vote this election,” said Katz.
“We hope that MitzVote helps young eligible voters know what a privilege and responsibility it is to participate in democracy and what their communities expect of them now that they are voters,” said Jeremy Cronig, a student at the Ohio State University and MitzVote campaign coordinator for Hillel International.