St. Petersburg College finished among the top three colleges in the nation in 2015 for student voter registrations among 140 colleges and universities participating in a nationwide democracy project known as TurboVote.
SPC, with 1,313 newly registered student voters, finished behind University of Virginia, with 1,718 new student registrations, and California Polytechnic State University, with 1,700. SPC is one of four members of the Florida College System (FCS) finishing among the top 25 TurboVote-partner colleges and universities. Its student voter registrant total accounted for fully one-third of the 3,454 new student voters among FCS institutions participating in TurboVote.
The non-partisan, non-profit TurboVote is designed to make voting easier for today’s technology-savvy students. A total of 24 of the 28 FCS member colleges participated in the statewide effort to use this technology in innovative ways to ensure that students have the materials and information necessary to vote in every election
TurboVote helps colleges and universities meet federal mandates that require institutions provide students with registration information. When students sign up, TurboVote keeps track of all the user’s elections—local, state and national. If students wish to register, update their addresses or request absentee ballots, TurboVote sends them all the forms and information they need with pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes. For every election, TurboVote sends text message and email reminders to all users with important election information, dates and deadlines, to ensure that they never miss another election.
Nationwide, more than 30,000 students were registered to vote for the first time during 2015 as a result of the TurboVote initiative.
“We know that students who are civically engaged are more likely to be successful in their academic careers, and in life,” said SPC President Bill Law. “That’s why St. Petersburg College emphasizes experiences like TurboVote for our students, as it helps inform their decision-making and prepare them for active involvement in matters of local, national and global significance.”
The FCS TurboVote project was sponsored for the second year in a row by The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College, which serves FCS from its SPC base. This was the first system-wide project of the FCS Civics Literacy Initiative, which was launched at a forum hosted by the Institute in October 2013 at SPC.
The Institute serves as the clearing house for the Initiative, hosting its workshops and maintaining a website where best practices in civics education are shared throughout the system. The goal of the Initiative is to make civic engagement part of the student experience of every student in the FCS system.
At SPC, the TurboVote project was spearheaded by Dr. Tara Newsom, Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Earl Fratus, Acting Director of the Honors College and formerly an Instructor of Social Science. The two worked with Student Life and Leadership Coordinators and other Student Services staff to integrate TurboVote into the registration and orientation process.
“During the buildup to presidential primaries it is immensely important to get students involved and aware of their civic duty,” Fratus said. “TurboVote helps us do that by registering students to vote, giving them election reminders and locating their polling places.”