Student-led ‘Vote, dammit.’ outreach campaign worked to increase student voter registration, turnout
Students in the Sam Fox School of Art & Design’s Communication Design: Voice decided to demonstrate and test their abilities to make an impact as designers through a campaign encouraging Washington University students to vote.
Adjunct professor Scott Gericke supervised the class, for which every one of the 10 students took on one of three different roles in the campaign: print, environmental and social media—all tasks which required both community outreach and design skills.
Many students fail to register to vote and to make it to the polls even when in a politically active environment like a college campus. Gericke noted that the “Vote, dammit.” campaign was intended to help students throughout all parts of the voting process—including what it means to have the right to vote.
“The goal of the campaign was twofold: to help freshmen register and understand their right to vote once they turn 18, and once the registration deadline was over, motivating them to vote,” Gericke said.
Senior Emma Riley, who took on a leadership role in developing the campaign, detailed how the Vote, dammit. campaign came about.
“Our class is about finding your voice as a designer and figuring out how to make an impact as a designer,” Riley said. “As all of the fire and the passion was starting to ignite on campus surrounding the debate, and people began registering to vote, we realized as students that it was a very confusing and difficult process [that] we wanted to make easier and exciting.”
After the class finished working on the campaign, Riley said she was surprised by how large an audience it reached, particularly because the campaign’s impact spread past just Washington University.
“It was exciting to realize that the campaign was getting noticed by people that I didn’t predict would ever spread to,” Riley said. “Workers in the library knew about it, my boss knew about it, random people I know in St. Louis unrelated to Wash. U. knew about it, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered it.”
According to Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement Voter Engagement Fellow Cassie Klosterman, the campaign was able to accomplish more outreach than the Gephardt Institute could have because of the design skills the students brought to the table.
“One of the things that we were really excited about in their project was the quality of design in everything that they produced,” Klosterman said.
In fact, Riley noted that many students, faculty and other Washington University community members were not aware that the Vote, dammit. campaign was created by students.
“People thought it was an external, professional group,” Riley said. “They thought it was a design firm, when really it was a group of 10 design students. We created this fully-formed campaign with social media, print ads, environmental materials, like posters, banners, Instagram graphics, videos, all of these different things, and it was just because we planned and put all our energy into the campaign.”
Gericke said his intention in creating the campaign was for it to be student-driven through and through.
“It was a campaign signed, written and developed by students for students, which was my intent,” Gericke said.
While the numbers are not out yet to show that Vote, dammit. increased voter turnout, Riley has heard many stories about how the campaign influenced students to vote.
“There was this one story that my friend told me where they were at a frat party and talking about registering to vote,” Riley said. “Right there on their phone, they went to the Vote, dammit. instructions and registered on Turbovote.”