Leaders of the UVA Wise Election Taskforce worked from early spring to prepare the College for the November 2020 election by ensuring policies were in place to protect free speech, to encourage campus participation in the election, and to boost civic engagement. Dean of Students Josh Justice said the taskforce accomplished its goals.
“We had our first meeting in early March and then our work was sidelined as our attention was diverted to pressing needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Justice said. “Our work resumed in the summer with a focus on encouraging civic engagement in a virtual world.”
The non-partisan committee supported a voter registration drive coordinated by the Office of Compliance & Inclusion. Campus policies were revamped to protect the community while encouraging appropriate behavior and free speech.
“I am so proud of the work that the Election Taskforce and its members did over the past year,” Justice, chair of the committee, said. “One of the goals at UVA Wise was to help students become engaged and active citizens.”
Justice said voting is the cornerstone in that process and the taskforce’s work focused on that important part of the overall process.
Tabitha Smith, head of the Office of Compliance & Inclusion, said 823 students were sent email with information on how to register to vote. About 350 students and employees received Cavalier Voter t-shirts at the registration drive.
“It was special to be part of a taskforce that is helping create an understanding of voting, civic engagement, and cultivating respect,” Smith said. “
Heather Evans, a political science professor, was pleased with the work of the taskforce. Evans played a key role on the committee.
“I am so happy with our voter registration and engagement efforts this year,” Evans said. “Even during this pandemic, we did a phenomenal job and everyone of the committee deserves to be celebrated for their contributions.”
Evans said the taskforce reached out to students with email, regular mail, and in-person on campus. Students received information about how to register to vote, how to request a ballot, and how to vote at the polls on Election Day.t
“Our efforts would not have been possible without grand funding from Students Learn Students Vote, Evans said. “Our SLSV grant was used to help us with items like printing and transportation to the polls on Election Day.”
Jewell Worley, vice chancellor of student affairs, said the focus of the taskforce was not party politics but rather on the process of democracy and the importance of civic engagement.
“The voter registration drive involved students to assist with the voter registration drive and with table times to hand out voter-themed t-shirts and stickers,” Worley said. “The taskforce was a wonderful cooperative effort between Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and several other offices from across campus.”
The work of the taskforce for the November election concluded with a post-election panel that discussed what happened the day after the election and where does the nation go from here. The panel shared important information that was relevant to the election process.