A Not-So-Challenging Plan to Get Every College Student Registered to Vote

"Marketing majors enrolled in Boston College’s illustrious Carroll School of Management would call this a 'fish in a barrel' situation."

Originally published in advance of the 2016 election; tweaked in advance of November 3rd


Back in the summer of 2014, a tidal wave of a fad was crashing down upon the nation’s newsfeeds.

What had started as a simple sharable squall had quickly become a social media monsoon, leaving the entirety of the Zuckerberg-curated web awash with videos that saw family members, friends, and casual acquaintances pouring gallons of frigid water on themselves as part of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” — a digital campaign dedicated to raising awareness of ALS started by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who had been diagnosed with the disease two years prior.

There were, as always, a few callous critics who derided the Challenge as just another example of hashtag activism, but the proof was nevertheless in the pudding. That year, the ALS Association raised over $115 million, with everyone from Bill Gates to Taylor Swift to Donald Forkin’ Trump getting in on the action.

In fact, thanks to a Wahlberg-worthy perfect storm of contributing factors (not to mention a little bit of Irish luck), the Ice Bucket Challenge brought in so much money that major breakthroughs in ALS research were made only 18 months after the first buckets were flipped.

As Wikipedia explains:

Its combination of competitiveness, social media pressure, online narcissism, and low barriers to entry…led to more than 2.4 million tagged videos circulating Facebook.

Of course, that kind of unprecedented success may not be able to be replicated when it comes to tackling all of modern societies’ various malignancies, though it might be for one particular, worthwhile aspiration.

Getting more college students into voting booths this fall…

Since 1962, young adult voters between the ages of 18 to 24 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups, with youth voter turnout in the 2014 midterm election the lowest it had been since 1942 (when the United States was engaged in World War II). And though the 2018 midterms did see a fortunate, noticeable ~20% spike in college-aged voter turnout, there still remained a noticeable gap between the youths and their older peers when it came to rocking the vote.

So, with the Ice Bucket Challenge model in mind, let me present a not-so-challenging plan to get more college kids out to the polls this November:

The Ice Bucket Challenge of College Voter Registration Drives

Step 1: Get every Boston College student registered to vote

One of the reasons the Ice Bucket Challenge initially took off at Chestnut Hill is because the Boston College community absolutely loves themselves this kind of thing; its students instilled from day one of freshman orientation with the rallying cry of the Jesuits’ favored saint, Ignatius of Loyola: “Go and set the world aflame” (even if that means dousing yourself with ice water in the process).

Following in a renowned tradition of charity and service, Boston Collegians strive to be “men and women for others.”

Plus, to cut the bull, charitable undertakings such as the Ice Bucket Challenge and Relay for Life and the Campus School Volunteer Program are preternaturally likely to be successful at Boston College because the BC student body is composed of, for the most part, privileged yet enthusiastic young adults who take great pride in finding ways to mix the benevolence of charity with some kind of puckish revelry.

(yes, that is me in the disconcertingly pastel polo with my fellow 2009 Senior-Freshmen retreat leaders)

Now, what only one of those enthusiastic young adults needs to do — maybe someone at The Heights, our esteemed student-run newspaper — is procure class lists for each year, create a Google Sheet, and begin tracking down the ~9,000 undergraduates to inquire about their voter registration status (which said undergraduates can check/confirm at canivote.org).

While that may seem like a daunting task to any non-Eagle reading this, know that 85% of Boston College’s student body lives on a campus that is comprised of only 130 acres, with most students clustered in two central areas; there are only three dining halls on said campus; there are only two libraries; and there are only three bars that BC students frequent. Plus, ya know, email.

Marketing majors enrolled in Boston College’s illustrious Carroll School of Management would call this a “fish in a barrel” situation.

Step 2: Have BC challenge Harvard to get all of their students registered to vote

Close your eyes and think of a prestigious university in the Boston area known for its beautiful architecture, intelligent and well-rounded student body, and historic tradition of excellence and virtue.

Now think of Harvard.

Let me be clear, I irrationally hate Boston University and rationally hate Notre Dame as much as the next Eagle. But the fact is BU has way more students than BC, making it a little unfair if we’re talking about mobilizing entire student bodies, and Notre Dame is way too full of students who are equally likely to write in Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger’s name than that of an actual candidate.

BTW, Daniel Ruettiger didn’t actually sack the quarterback in the big game like his character did in the movie (it was “the articulate, 6-4, 234-pound [Jay] Achterhoff” who made the tackle). And in 2011, the Notre Dame “hero” was charged with securities fraud for his involvement in a pump-and-dump scheme that resulted in him having to pay $382,866 in fines.

But I digress…

Ultimately, Harvard University is the only BC rival worth challenging.

With only 6,800 undergrads they would be at a slight advantage, but whatever. I’m sure, like their hockey team, they would inevitably come up short, resulting in the Boston College community being able to rub it in their pompous faces William Hunting style.

Fortunately, despite their inevitable shortcomings, the Crimson could still rehab their image by @ing another school in order to keep the voter registrations a flowin’…

Step 3: Have Harvard challenge Yale to get all of their students registered to vote

Like those good ole chain emails from the early internet days, a paramount part of the Ice Bucket Challenge was that once one had completed the challenge they were tasked with challenging someone else, by name, to do the same.

In this case, it would be a licking-their-wounds Harvard attempting to prove to the Bulldogs of Yale that New Haven is simply the home for safety-school settlers.

It’d be just like that movie The Skulls; only instead of Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, and pistol duels, it would be Harvard, Yale, and some Google Docs.

Well, not actually at all like that movie The Skulls. Regardless, Yale, upon being challenged, would then do their best to show up their Ivy League compatriots by getting all of their students registered to vote.

Then maybe, for instance, Georgetown might be compelled to challenge Syracuse, Stanford might be compelled to take on USC, the Blue Devils of Duke might be compelled to go toe-to-toe with the Tarheels of North Carolina for Tobacco Rode supremacy. The possibilities are endless.

2020 is the first year all Millennials have reached voting age, meaning they represent ~40% of America’s eligible voters. Add to that the ever-growing batch of Generation Z’ers who are coming of voting age each day, and that is undeniable political landscape-shifting power.

All these young patriots have to do is reach out, grab it with both hands, and pour it all over themselves.


Because, to quote Abed Nadir from S5E5 of Community, “the non-awesome often need incentive to do awesome stuff,” these universities’ respective alumni bases could do a fair amount to sweeten the pot when it comes to making sure these challenges are taken on and subsequently take off.

BC grads, for instance, we could hang a briefcase full of money specifically dedicated to the Senior Week Fund over the Mods and tell the seniors they have to have X% of their class registered to vote in order to retrieve it.

And yeah, sure, this may be a Hail Mary of an idea. But we Eagles have always been taught to believe in miracles…

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