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Kean Voting Squad Works to Get Out the Vote

A closeup of a student registering to vote at a desk.

A corps of student volunteers called the Voting Squad will be fanning out across Kean University, on campus and remotely, to register students to vote in the upcoming election and encourage them to follow through with voting by mail or in person on Election Day.

Established by the Human Rights Institute at Kean University (HRI), the Voting Squad has set a lofty goal — to register 100% of the Kean community who are eligible to vote by the registration deadline of October 13. The Voting Squad, which will be made up of five teams of 10 members each, will also offer non-partisan support for mail-in voting.

“Members of the Squad will ask every student to register to vote by meeting with classes and student groups to discuss the importance of voting,” said HRI Director Lauretta A. Farrell, D.Litt. “Our target is to meet with every Transition to Kean class, freshmen taking Worlds of History, all fraternities and sororities, student organizations and athletic teams by October 6.” 

The Squad’s work will build on Kean’s tradition of strong student community involvement and the University’s national recognition for its efforts to promote voting. This week, Kean was named to the Washington Monthly America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting 2020 list. Last November, Kean was awarded a gold seal in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for having the most improved rate of student voting in the nation for a public university its size.

“Our students are very socially conscious, which comes in part from the diversity of our campus.  In the classroom and through extra-curricular activities, including athletics, students are taught to use their voices to effect change. Voting is part of that and is front and center of so many of the conversations regarding diversity, inclusion and equity that are taking place around the nation right now,” Farrell said.

Finance major Jenell Boykins of Trenton jumped at the chance to join the Voting Squad as a team captain. After graduating this coming May, she plans to get a master’s degree in public policy and run for office one day.

“I am a huge advocate for young people going out to vote. As an African-American woman, I know many people fought and paved the way for everyone to have an equal chance to vote and let their voices be heard,” she said. “Many people complain about what changes they want to see in the United States or even in their own communities. If you want to see change, the best way is through voting.”

Boykins and the other student volunteers will use Blackboard, Zoom and social media to reach students off campus, and will follow all safety guidelines to meet with students on campus when possible.

The Voting Squad is still recruiting faculty and staff. Head Men’s Basketball Coach Adam Hutchinson has recruited some of Kean’s student athletes to join the effort. The Squad is also coordinating with the Center for Leadership and Service, which runs voter registration drives across campus every year, and resident assistants in the Office of Residential Student Services.

Financial support for the voting squad comes from Ask Every Student, a project of the National Resource Consortium on Full Student Voter Participation, and National Voter Registration Day, a non-partisan organization devoted to celebrating our democracy.