With vote pledge competition and other initiatives, student-athletes work to increase voter turnout

| Staff Reporter

In anticipation of Election Day, the push for a higher voter turnout is pervasive throughout campus.  Residential Life has hosted sessions on Zoom to help students ask questions they have about registering to vote, and the Gephardt Institute is bringing notaries to campus to make sure that students have the resources they need to mail any absentee ballots. This push has extended to the Washington University athletic department. A few new initiatives in place show an increased push for civic engagement by Washington University student-athletes.

This year, WashU Votes has collaborated with the athletic department and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) to run a series of initiatives to help student-athletes engage with the election. Each team has a student representative who relays information from the WashU Votes to the individual team members in an effort to keep voting information accessible to all student-athletes. These student reps and other student-led initiatives have been crucial for keeping student-athletes engaged.  

Grace Bruton | Student Life

Gephardt Institute workers stand outside the Athletic Complex voting site in 2018.

“Conversations amongst my teammates and other student-athletes are probably more effective just because we’re mostly on the same page with stuff,” said senior Kirby Knapp, a member of the SAAC executive committee and the Wash. U. volleyball team. “It’s easier to talk to teammates in some cases than older adults.”

In addition, the SAAC has initiated an athletics-wide team competition for voting—the team with the highest proportion of voters wins. They have asked that athletes fill out a pledge to vote. “It just shows school pride—team pride—in being able to share your vote and use your voice to make changes,” Knapp said.

The competition is run through a website, allintovote.org, that has students sign their name to internally hold them accountable. “Obviously we can’t control [who votes]. But by taking the pledge, the hope is that people will follow through and hold themselves accountable, and make a plan to vote and stick to it,” said senior Tim Tague, co-president of SAAC and a member of the Bears’ football and baseball teams. After students take the pledge, they will submit a screenshot to the organizer and there will be a tally of which team has the highest percentage of team members who have completed the pledge.

However, the athletic department’s efforts extend past a voting pledge. Some teams have canceled training on Tuesday, Nov. 3, to allow their students to vote in person.  Additionally, for the 24 hours before and 48 hours after the election, anyone in the athletic department is completely available to talk to the students through a program called 2448.  “Before the election and the results after the election can impact people in a lot of different ways, mentally and emotionally,” Tague said. “So they have doors and phones and emails wide open to talk with student-athletes [who] need help,” Tague said. 

Besides raising voter turnout, the voting push has also fostered a sense of community in a time where many events have been canceled.  “We haven’t been able to practice or play games as much as we normally would. So I think we’ve really done a good job of switching gears and focusing on things that we can do off the field. And this was one of the things that I was really passionate about,” said senior Katy Mockett, a member of SAAC’s executive board and a back on the women’s soccer team. 

Mockett has gone one step further, having teammates promote information from WashU Votes and volunteering at the polls.  “Finding ways to make sure that we’re all still connecting and being able to move forward in whatever our goals are has been one of our main priorities,” she said. “One of those goals is, for me and for a lot of other student-athletes, is to make sure that we have a good voter turnout here at Wash. U.”



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