CSD sponsors voter engagement summit

​Representatives from St. Louis universities and community organizations gathered for the first Campus and Community Voter Engagement Summit, on August 9 at the Brown School. 

“The goal of this inaugural meeting was to learn about strategies and approaches toward student engagement in voting,” said Gena McClendon, director of the Voter Access and Engagement initiative at the Center for Social Development (CSD).

CSD, the Gephardt Institute and the Campus Election and Engagement Project (CEEP) sponsored the nonpartisan event to forge relationships, strengthen partnerships and share knowledge and resources to encourage voter registration and mobilization.

McClendon described what voter engagement looks like in the St. Louis region, and how Voter Access and Engagement is forming partnerships with local community organizations. She also spoke about barriers to voting and said her team is using geographic information system mapping to illustrate those barriers and to create strategies for voter engagement. 

The Gephardt Institute’s Cara Johnson, Tory Scordato and Theresa Kouo discussed WashU Votes, emphasizing ways to incorporate voter engagement strategies on college campuses. Leah Sweetman, of Saint Louis University, and Patricia Zahn led a session on building strong campus coalitions for voter engagement.

Jacob I. Wilson, Missouri director of CEEP, talked about the development and assessment of election engagement.  

Erica Williams, of the nonprofit A Red Circle, spoke about her experience in grassroots voter education and mobilization during the past primary election, which included offering rides to people without transportation to the polls. Encouraging voting is the first step in holding elected representatives accountable, Williams said, and Red Circle works to remove the barriers that might keep people from participating.  

Three officials participated in a roundtable discussion on such topics as the new Missouri Voter-ID law, election-day challenges and various processes surrounding election law and voter registration. 

Brandon Alexander, the Republican director of elections for the Office of the Secretary of State, Gary Stoff, the Republican director of the St. Louis City Board of Election Supervisors, and Eric Fey, Democratic director of the St. Louis County Board of Election Supervisor, answered questions and shared information. As they answered questions from the audience, they stressed the problem of human error during elections and the need for more poll workers and Election Day judges to ensure that elections run smoothly and correctly.

The summit concluded with the development of action steps to strengthen communication and collaboration between the organizations and universities present.