TurboVote was created by Seth Flaxman, a Harvard graduate, after he missed several elections during his graduate school years. The original idea was to build a simple system to remind voters to be civically engaged and to participate in their democracy. It was first launched in Sept. 2010 and grew into Democracy Works Incorporated. Its first project was TurboVote. For the third year, Boston College is using the system.
“It’s essentially an online tool to make registering to vote really easy for students,” Carrie Klemovitch, director of special projects for student affairs and BC ’01, said. “They provide electronic reminders, polling information, absentee ballots for students. It’s just really simple to use.”
The organization approached BC through a National Student Affairs Professional Association (NASPA) grant and offered a promotion for NASPA members, who were involved in a civic engagement initiative, to partner with it at a reduced cost.
“TurboVote is very simple. You’re able to register for any state,” Domenick Fazzolari, MCAS ’17 and Eagle Political Society president, said. “It’s the same for everyone, and it’s easy to understand for everyone.”
1,822 students have begun the registration process with TurboVote since it was introduced to BC students through the Office of Student Affairs. After Barbara Jones, the vice president for student affairs, sent a mass email out to students on Feb. 8, 386 students have begun registration.
On Sept. 22, 2015, National Voter Registration Day, the Office of Student Affairs partnered with three campus organizations—the Eagle Political Society, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College, and Generation Citizen—and set up tables around campus with TurboVote ready for students to register with. Over 600 students registered that day.
“The Eagle Political Society was honored to work with the department of student affairs and other student organizations in promoting civic engagement and getting students registered to vote,” Fazzolari said. “It really fit with EPS’ mission of giving students a voice in the political process, and getting them involved because that’s what it’s really about.”
Fazzolari expects that there will be a similar tabling event like that of National Voter Registration Day sometime this semester. Fazzolari recalled that because many students have noted some level of political apathy among campuses, EPS was happy to help the University with spreading TurboVote across the student population. It was glad to see that BC was promoting civic engagement through the project.
For many students, politics can be an intimidating conversation topic, and many hesitate to engage in debates. Fazzolari emphasizes that no one needs to be a political genius to participate in open conversation and learn.
“TurboVote streamlines the voter registration process because any state has forms with TurboVote,” Fazzolari said.
According to Democracy Works’ website, TurboVote has registered over 250,000 voters through its partnerships with more than 200 universities and colleges and 30 organizations, including Google. On Oct. 22 of last year, BC was ranked the institution with the seventh-most sign-ups among the more than 200 universities partnered with TurboVote.
“The biggest barriers to registration seem to be figuring out what the process is yourself, lack of information about how to get started, and time constraint,” Klemovitch said. “TurboVote simplifies the process—especially if you’re not a Massachusetts resident.”
When registering with TurboVote, students enter their name, pick their residence hall from a drop-down menu, complete a series of simple check-box questions indicating what they want from TurboVote—if they want to register, vote by mail, get election reminders, or any combination of the three—and their registration status.
After filling in other general information, students are taken to a page that offers them online or by-mail registration. Students need a state-issued ID to register to vote online.
Featured Image by Abby Paulson / Heights Editor