MADISON, Wis. — Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are excited to vote in next month's presidential election despite the pandemic spurring a scaled-back number of events seeking to increase voter turnout on college campuses, organizers said.
Student groups at the school moved voter organizing efforts online, using texting campaigns and social media blasts to those who are eligible to vote, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
"It's shocking," UW-Madison College Republicans member Keeley Collins said. "We aren't having in-person events but I've never seen people so fired up about voting. I personally don't know anyone who isn't registered to vote."
CIRCLE, a nonpartisan research center at Tufts University, identified Wisconsin as the top state where youth turnout has the highest potential to influence the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.
During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump won Wisconsin by 22,748 votes. UW-Madison's student population doubles that number.
NextGen America, a liberal youth turnout organization founded by former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, is still keeping their goal of making voting fun this election, organizer Kade Walker said.
"We're having so many more conversations because it's so easy to do things online," Walker said. "The energy that young people have is even greater than in 2018. They're getting active. They're voting earlier."
The group has hosted hot-sauce challenges, staff cook-offs on social media and voting discussions. Its 36-member staff continues to work at colleges in the state to register students and help them with absentee ballots online.
The university's nonpartisan voter education initiative, the Badger Votes Coalition, moved its event dubbed "Zoom the Vote" online. The videos give students the opportunity to learn about voter registration, absentee ballots and how to work the polls.
"We're just trying to encourage people to participate in the election in the safest way possible," said Kathy Cramer, a political science professor and co-chair of the coalition.