OCC joins Ballot Bowl to bolster voter registration

Orange Coast College is participating this fall semester for the first time in the 2020 Ballot Bowl, a competition between all of the higher education schools in the California system to see how many students each campus can get registered to vote, meant to foster civic engagement amongst California’s most underrepresented age 18-24 voting group.

The Ballot Bowl was first held in 2018 as a bipartisan project under then-Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Secretary of State, and a coalition of nonprofit organizations. More than 45 schools participated in the first Ballot Bowl and succeeded in registering more than 10,000 students to vote across the state. 

This year, the Ballot Bowl began Aug. 17 and will run until Election Day on Nov. 3. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 19. As of September 28, 84 schools have signed up for the second annual Ballot Bowl. California Students Vote project, a division of the Secretary of State’s office that runs the Ballot Bowl and oversees civic engagement on college campuses, has even more ambitious goals this year. They aim to enroll 100 campuses in the program to participate for the 2020 election. 

Orange Coast College currently stands at fifth in the community colleges category of the Ballot Bowl competition, with 245 students registered for the 2020 general election. Running away with the overall competition is California State University, Fullerton, with 1,360 students registered to vote this year, already over 10% of the total number of people who registered throughout the entire 2018 competition. The current second place school is University of California, San Diego, which has signed up 780 students. Current rankings and registration stats can be found here.

Michael Morvice, director of student life and leadership development and civic engagement coordinator, said the Ballot Bowl is a great opportunity for OCC to “see many students we can get to register to vote, and ask how we can get students to participate.” 

Campuses face a new challenge with the Ballot Bowl this year, left without the option of usual outreach events such as on-campus debate watch parties and voter registration drives, as campuses remain closed through the fall.

Outreach has been predominantly digital, with email reminders, social media posts, and reminders to register to vote easily accessible in student portals when registering for classes,” said Lizette Mata, the Deputy Secretary of State Operations who oversees the California Students Vote Project. “Some campuses are leaning into the competition element of the Ballot Bowl, and run campaigns to motivate students to register to vote as a form of school pride.”

Some of the events hosted by other California campuses include debate watch parties via zoom and going live on Instagram. Campuses are trying to meet students where they're at- students portals, email reminders, social media platforms, etc.

“The most successful campuses competing in the Ballot Bowl have had student leaders engage their peers by creating social media graphics or memes, and coming up with creative ways to get students involved, “ Mata says. 

The winner of the 2020 Ballot Bowl will be announced on Nov. 16. OCC students interested in promoting the Ballot Bowl can use this Student Tool Kit provided by the Secretary of State’s office to help create a student engagement plan. Students can also participate in the Students Vote Project Facebook page, which was created as a shared resource for civic engagement for students, nonprofit partners, Secretary of State staff, and campus representatives.  

For the up-to-date election and voting information, visit vote.ca.gov.

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