Half-Baked Ideas to Save the World: A Plan to Get Every College Student Registered to Vote
Random Nerds believes that we as a collective internet body are capable of great things. We might even be able to save the world, if we don’t destroy it first.
Half-Baked Ideas to Save the World is where we’ll try and harness that power with
probably terrible possibly decent hypotheses and schemes.
(originally posted on January 22, 2016)
Back in 2014, as the dog days of summer were just beginning to slink upon us, a tidal wave of a fad was crashing down upon the nation’s news feeds.
What had started as an unassuming surge had quickly become an unignorable deluge, leaving the entirety of the Zuckerberg-curated web awash with videos of family members, friends, and casual acquaintances pouring buckets of ice water on themselves as part of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” – a campaign dedicated to raising awareness of ALS started by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates (Go Eagles!), who was diagnosed with the disease back in 2012.
There were, as always, a few callous critics who derided the Challenge as an ineffectual bit of hashtag activism, even as the phenomenon continued to snowball, but the proof is nevertheless in the pudding: That year, the ALS Association raised over $115 million#, with everyone from Bill Gates# to Taylor Swift# to Donald Trump# getting in on the action.
In fact, thanks to a Wahlberg-worthy perfect storm of contributing factors (not to mention a little bit of luck), the Ice Bucket Challenge brought in so much money that we are already seeing major breakthroughs in ALS research only 18 months after the first buckets were flipped.
As Wikipedia, the subject of a previous Half-Baked Idea to Save the World, explains:
Its combination of competitiveness, social media pressure, online narcissism, and low barriers to entry…led to more than 2.4 million tagged videos circulating Facebook.
And that kind of unprecedented success has, understandably, led every other nonprofit and NGO under the sun to wonder how it might be duplicated when it comes to tackling the other, more grandiose ills that befall our modern society.
Like for example, getting more college students out to vote…
Since 1962, young adult voters between the ages of 18-24 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups in every presidential election, and youth voter turnout in the 2014 midterm election was the lowest it has been since 1942 (when the United States was engaged in World War II).
Pardon my french, Father Farrell, but that’s a god damn embarrassment for all parties involved – from the 18-24 year-olds who don’t think voting is worth it, to the various failed systems that were supposed to engage this demographic in the political process in the first place.
So, with the Ice Bucket Challenge model in mind and with the spirit of P. Diddy# in heart, let me present my latest half-baked scheme to get more college kids out to the polls this November:
The Ice Bucket Challenge of College Voter Registration Drives
(a 3-part affair)
Part 1: Get every Boston College student registered to vote
One of the reasons the Ice Bucket Challenge initially took off is because the Boston College community absolutely LOVES themselves this kind of thing. As one of the largest communities of Jesuits in the world, Boston College proudly instills in its students the rallying cry of its favored saint, Ignatius of Loyola: “Go and set the world aflame” (even if that means dousing yourself with ice water in the process).
Plus, to cut the bull, stuff like the Ice Bucket Challenge and Relay for Life# and the Campus School Volunteer Program# are preternaturally likely to be successful at Boston College because the BC student body is comprised of, for the most part, privileged but enthusiastic young adults who take great pride in finding ways to mix the “business” of charity with some kind of pleasure, be it Thoreauvian or Bacchanalian in nature.
Not to mention, with only ~9,000 undergraduates, Boston College is the perfect size for a test-case to see if it’s even logistically possible to get an entire university registered to vote.
Which leads us to…
How BC Students Can Pull This Off:
Get Your Google Doc On
We need to be able to track who is and isn’t registered to vote, so what better way than Google Docs, which allows multiple levels of editing and viewing options.
This very raw Google Doc that I’ve taken the liberty of putting together is broken down by class year and has three cells for each student:
- one cell for their name
- one cell for where we’ll insert proof that they’re registered to vote (in the form of an Instagram/Twitter URL linking to a picture of their voter registration#)
- one cell that will be left blank until November (when it will then, hopefully, be filled with another Instagram or Twitter link proving that said student actually voted#)
What some enterprising BC student(s) now needs to do is get class lists for each year and begin filling out the first row of cells in this thing with every undergraduate student’s name#. Then, I suggest that someone at The Heights, our esteemed student-run newspaper, make an email address where students can submit their Instagram/Twitter URLs (see below, but know that this also takes care of the “online narcism” angle that Wikipedia mentioned earlier).
But how does one register to vote/prove you’re registered to vote? Great question.
Just go to CanIVote.org and fill in your information. In only a few clicks, you’ll have digital proof that you’re an empowered citizen:
Then, once you’ve got your proof of registration screengrabbed and sent in to The Heights for Google Doc-entry, you’re ready for the next step…
Set Chestnut Hill Aflame
As I brought up before, Boston College only has roughly 9,000 undergraduates. That is, relatively speaking, not a lot of people. Getting every Eagle to drop down and get their registration on, in theory, shouldn’t be that hard.
However, if The Heights really wanted to do right by their journalistic colleagues, they’d probably do well to set up voter-registration tables around campus, in addition to collecting ‘proof’ emails.
Not to be a backseat mobilizer, but…
- 85% of Boston College’s student body lives on a campus that is only 130 acres, with most students clustered in two central areas
- there are only three dining halls that students eat at
- there are only two libraries that students go to#
- there are only three bars that students
binge drink atfrequent
Marketing majors in BC’s illustrious Carroll School of Management would call this a “fish in a barrel” situation. Not to mention, the Boston College Admissions team is already drooling at the thought of getting to market BC as the most politically engaged campus in the country, so you know they’d have your back.
Still, just in case, I have a great idea for incentivizing Boston College students to register to vote – ya know, besides the fact that it’s a vital part of being an American citizen – but that leads me to…
What BC Alumni Can Do To Help:
Add a Little C.R.E.A.M…
My fellow Eagles who have since spread our wings and soared gloriously from the nest of Chestnut Hill, we have a responsibility to our more baby Eaglets. And by that, I mean we have a responsibility to incentivize them to do the right thing by any means necessary.
So I’m asking you, BC Alumni, to offer up whatever you think might lure away a Boston College student from the mods for 5 minutes and get them registered to vote.
For instance, any money Patronized to this post will go towards a pot of money that will be dangled in front of the UGBC student-concert budget, the hope being that images of Drake or Taylor Swift in Conte Forum will be enough to rouse even the most politically apathetic Superfan.
But remember, this is a half-baked idea, which means creative suggestions are not only welcomed but encouraged. Do you have Red Sox tickets you want to raffle off? Perfect, thank you Mr. Lupica. Do you want to sponsor an open bar at Mary Ann’s? Awesome (though any subsequent liver or property damage is on you, Matty Ice). Oh, you want to film a 6-episode spin-off of Parks and Recreation set in the BC Admissions office? Freaking brilliant, Ms. Poehler.
But Keep the Carrot on the Stick
Of course, it bears emphasizing that any and everything that gets offered up as an incentive will simply be a hypothetical carrot on the stick until the entirety of the applicable Boston College student body has proven that they’re registered to vote via our handy Google Doc.
Think of it like a Kickstarter finally getting funded. If some hermitic freshman on Newton doesn’t participate or some selfish assholes in 28A hold out, no one gets anything and we’re all left with an unquenchable sense of despair. Only if BC students actually unify and prove the cry that “For Here All Are One”# will they get to reap the riches and rewards and Taylor Swift Red Sox games that were promised them.
This is the “pressure” part that made the Ice Bucket Challenge such a success.
However, there’s also the “Challenge” part that needs to get brought in, which leads me to…
Part 2: Challenge Harvard to get all their students registered to vote
Close your eyes and think of a university in the Boston area that is known for its beautiful architecture, intelligent and well-rounded student body, and historic tradition of excellence and virtue.
Now think of Harvard.
Let me be clear, I irrationally hate BU and rationally hate Notre Dame just as much as the next Eagle. But the fact is, BU has way more students than BC, making it a little unfair if we’re talking about mobilizing entire student bodies, and Notre Dame is way too full of midwestern conservative Catholics to encourage them all to vote.
Ultimately, Harvard is the only real contender worthy of challenging.
And to show that BC is serious, part of this challenge to get the entirety of Harvard’s student base registered to vote would mean putting up 50% of whatever was donated to the BC Voter Registration Challenge as a bet.
Of course, we would expect Harvard’s students and alumni – who are also being challenged to incentivize their Crimson brethren in this endeavor – to match this bet, as the ladies and gentlemen of Cambridge have always been good sports#. But that way,
when if Harvard fails to get all their students registered to vote, BC students get to throw a Harvard-endowment size party with their hubris-stained money.
If, however, Harvard is able to somehow wrangle up all those future hedge-fund managers and private equity consultants and get them registered to vote, then all is gravy and we move on to Step 3…
Part 3: Have Harvard challenge Yale to get all their students registered to vote
Like a good chain email, an intrinsic part of the Ice Bucket Challenge was that once you had completed the challenge yourself, you were tasked with challenging others to do the same.
If Harvard is able to somehow pull a Will Hunting and rub their unanimous political engagement in our faces…
then it’s up to them to keep this political revolution going by challenging their true, “Joker in the Dark Knight”-level rival: Yale.
Think of it. This could be Harvard’s chance to prove to those Yale Bulldogs once and for all who the alpha dog in the Ivy League is. It would be just like that movie The Skulls# – only instead of Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, and pistol duels, it would be Harvard, Yale, and Google Docs.
Plus, this can just be one single branch of The Ice Bucket Challenge of College Voter Registration Drives!
Georgetown could challenge Syracuse, Berkeley could challenge Stanford, Duke could challenge UNC; the possibilities are endless. All it takes is a Google Doc and a handful of committed students and alumni.
According to a study by the Center for American Progress, in 2020 — the first presidential election where all Millennials will have reached voting age – they will represent just under 40% of America’s eligible voters. That’s power. Undeniable, political landscape-shifting power.
All these kids have to do is reach out, grab it with both hands, and pour it all over themselves.
And sure it may be a long shot, but I’ve been taught to believe in miracles…
Remember, this is an admittedly half-baked idea. If you have an idea on how to bake it more, or you just want to help get this thing in the oven, find me on Twitter @brycetrudow or email me at [email protected]
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